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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Ireland National Football Team Becomes First to Defeat England at Home

The Republic of Ireland national football team defeats the England national football team 2-0 in a friendly international at Goodison Park, Liverpool, the home of Everton F.C., on September 21, 1949. As a result, Ireland becomes the first foreign team to beat England at home. In 1953, the Hungarian team known as the Mighty Magyars defeats England 6–3, to become the second team to do so.

During the 1940s, there are in effect, two Ireland teams, chosen by two rival associations — the Northern Ireland-based Irish Football Association (IFA) and the Republic of Ireland-based Football Association of Ireland (FAI). Both organisations claim jurisdiction over the whole of Ireland, and select players from the whole island. As a result, several notable Irish players from this era play for both teams. The IFA XI had played England regularly since 1882, and claim their first victory, by a score of 3–0, on English soil at Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough, on February 14, 1914, but this is only the second time England and the FAI XI have met. Despite this, several members of the FAI XI had played against England several times before while representing the IFA XI. Striker Davy Walsh had previously scored three times against England.

The FAI XI plays England for the first time at Dalymount Park on September 30, 1946. A team, featuring Johnny Carey, Con Martin and Billy Walsh, are narrowly defeated 1–0 when Tom Finney scores the winner in the 82nd minute. Two days earlier, on September 28, Carey and Tom Aherne had been included in the IFA XI that had been heavily defeated 7–2 by the same England side. The next time the IFA XI play England, on November 5, 1947, their team includes six players — Carey, Martin, Billy Walsh, Peter Farrell, Davy Walsh and Tommy Eglington — who had previously played for the FAI XI. Davy Walsh scores the opening goal in a 2–2 draw at Goodison Park. Carey, Martin, Farrell and Walsh also play for the IFA XI in their 6–2 defeat by England at Windsor Park on October 10, 1948. Davy Walsh also scores both goals that day.

The September 21, 1949 match is used by both teams as part of their preparations for forthcoming World Cup qualifiers. Despite the absence of both Stanley Matthews and Stan Mortensen, England fields a strong team, including Billy Wright, Neil Franklin, Wilf Mannion and Tom Finney. Ireland’s team includes just seven First Division players, but these include Johnny Carey who is voted FWA Footballer of the Year in 1949. Another two Irish players, Tom Aherne and Tommy Moroney, like Finney, play in the English Football League Second Division. The remaining two Irish players, goalkeeper Tommy Godwin and Tommy O’Connor both play for Shamrock Rovers F.C. in the League of Ireland.

The early pattern of the game sees England launch wave after wave of attacks. However Tommy Godwin is in inspired form and Con Martin, Tom Aherne and Johnny Carey prove too difficult for England to get past. Carey is also effective in keeping Tom Finney quiet, while wing-halves Billy Walsh and Tommy Moroney gradually take the sting out of the English front line. Ireland takes the lead in the 33rd minute when Peter Desmond, after collecting a pass from Tommy O’Connor, bursts into the England penalty area and is brought down. Con Martin then converts the subsequent penalty kick. During the second half the wave of England attacks continues. Peter Harris hits the bar and Jesse Pye also goes close. However Peter Farrell, playing at his club Everton’s home ground, makes victory certain in the 85th minute. O’Connor slips the ball to Farrell and as the English goalkeeper Bert Williams advances, Farrell lofts the ball into the net.

(Pictured: The Irish team which beat England 2-0 at Goodison Park in 1949. Back Row (L to R): Con Martin, Tommy Aherne, Tommy Godwin, Tommy Moroney and Willie Walsh. Seated (L to R): Peter Corr, Tommy O’Connor, Johnny Carey, Peter Desmond, Peter Farrell and Davy Walsh.)