seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Pat Jennings, Northern Ireland Footballer

pat-jenningsPatrick Anthony Jennings, Northern Irish footballer, is born in Newry, County Down, Northern Ireland on June 12, 1945. He plays 119 games for Northern Ireland as a goalkeeper, a figure which at the time is a world record and is still a Northern Ireland record, in an international career which lasts for over 22 years.

After playing for the Shamrock Rovers F.C. under-18 squad at the age of 11, Jennings concentrates on Gaelic football until he is sixteen years old, when he makes his soccer comeback with his hometown Newry City F.C.. After impressing with the team he moves to English Third Division Watford F.C. in May 1963. He again impresses in his first season in England, playing every league game for his club, and making two international appearances that season. He is signed by Tottenham Hotspur F.C. for £27,000 in June 1964.

Jennings spends thirteen years at White Hart Lane, where he plays in 472 league games for the Spurs, and 591 in all competitions. He wins the FA Cup in 1967, the League Cup in 1971 and 1973, and the UEFA Cup in 1972. In 1973 the Football Writers’ Association name him as its footballer of the year. Three years later he wins the Professional Footballers’ Association‘s (PFA) version of the award, the first goalkeeper to receive this accolade.

In August 1977, Jennings is transferred to Tottenham’s arch-rivals, Arsenal F.C., with Tottenham thinking he is nearing the end of his career. However, Jennings plays for Arsenal for another eight years where he helps Arsenal to the FA Cup final in 1978, 1979, and 1980, as well as the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup final that year. However, Arsenal only manages to win the second of these finals, a 3–2 victory against Manchester United F.C.. In total, Jennings makes 327 appearances for Arsenal between 1977 and his eventual retirement from first-team club football in 1985. On February 26, 1983, he becomes the first player in English football to make 1,000 senior appearances, celebrating this milestone with a clean sheet in a goalless league draw for Arsenal at West Bromwich Albion F.C.

After his retirement, Jennings returns to Tottenham Hotspur, playing mostly in their reserve side to maintain his match sharpness for Northern Ireland’s 1986 FIFA World Cup campaign. His final appearance for Tottenham is in the Football League Super Cup against Liverpool F.C. in January 1986. He also plays briefly for Everton F.C., having been signed as goalkeeping cover for the 1986 FA Cup Final against Liverpool.

Despite retiring from club football in 1985, Jennings plays his final international game at the 1986 FIFA World Cup, on his 41st birthday, making him at the time the World Cup’s oldest ever participant. The match is Northern Ireland’s final group game, a 3–0 defeat against Brazil. In total, he participates in the qualifying stages of six World Cups between 1966 and 1986.

Following his retirement Jennings works as a goalkeeping coach. In 2003 he is inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in recognition of the skills he demonstrated in the English league. His son, also named Pat, is also a goalkeeper. He has played for League of Ireland clubs University College Dublin A.F.C., Derry City F.C., Shamrock Rovers and NIFL Premiership club Glenavon F.C.

Jennings and his family have lived for many years in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, where his son attended The Broxbourne School along with the sons of fellow Spurs players Chris Hughton, Osvaldo Ardiles and Ray Clemence. He is still associated with the Spurs and hosts Corporate Hospitality fans in the Pat Jennings Lounges at White Hart Lane and Windsor Park, Belfast.

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Birth of N.I. Footballer Robert Dennis “Danny” Blanchflower

danny-blanchflowerRobert Dennis “Danny” Blanchflower, former Northern Ireland international footballer and football manager, is born on February 10, 1926 in the Bloomfield district of Belfast, the first of five children born to John and Selina Blanchflower.

Blanchflower is educated at Ravenscroft public elementary school and is awarded a scholarship to Belfast College of Technology. He leaves school early to become an apprentice electrician at Gallaher’s cigarette factory in Belfast. He also joins the Air Raid Precautions and, in 1943, joins the Royal Air Force after lying about his age. By 1946, after a trainee navigator course at St. Andrews University and further training in Canada, he is back at Gallaher’s in Belfast and building a reputation as an outstanding footballer.

Blanchflower signs with Glentoran F.C. in 1946 before crossing the Irish Sea and signing with Barnsley F.C. for £6000 in 1949 at the age of 23. He transfers from Barnsley to Aston Villa F.C. for a fee of £15,000 and makes his First Division debut in March 1951. He makes 155 senior appearances for Villa before being bought by Tottenham Hotspur F.C. in 1954 for a fee of £30,000. During his ten years playing at White Hart Lane he makes 337 League appearances and 382 total appearances.

The highlight of his time with the Spurs comes in the 1960–61 season, while serving as captain, the Spurs win their first 11 games and eventually win the league by 8 points. They beat Leicester City F.C. in the final of the FA Cup, becoming the first team in the 20th century to win the League and Cup double and a feat not achieved since Aston Villa in 1897.

In 1962, Blanchflower again captains the Spurs team to victory in the FA Cup in 1962, narrowly missing out on a second double when they finish a close third in the league behind Ipswich Town F.C. and Burnley F.C. In 1963, he captains the team to victory over Atlético Madrid in the final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup, making Spurs the first English team to win a European trophy.

Between 1949 and 1963, he earns 56 caps for Northern Ireland, often playing alongside his brother Jackie until the younger Blanchflower’s playing career is cut short as a result of injuries sustained in the Munich air disaster of February 1958. In 1958, captains his country when they reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup.

On December 4, 1957, he captains the Northern Ireland team against Italy in Belfast in a bad tempered game that comes to be known as the “Battle of Belfast.” Blanchflower attempts to keep the peace as the game turns nasty.

Blanchflower announces his retirement as a player on April 5, 1964, having played nearly 400 games in all competitions for the Spurs and captains them to four major trophies.

Following his retirement as a player, Blanchflower coachs for the Spurs for a number of years. Manager Bill Nicholson intends for Blanchflower to be his successor but, when Nicholson resigns in 1974, Blanchflower is passed over in favour of Terry Neill. He leaves the Spurs and becomes manager of Northern Ireland for a brief spell in 1978 before being appointed boss of Chelsea F.C. The team wins only three of fifteen games under his charge and he leaves the team in September 1979.

On May 1, 1990, Tottenham holds a testimonial match for Blanchflower at White Hart Lane, but at this point he is in the early stages of what is later diagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. He is eventually placed in a Staines nursing home where he dies as a result of pneumonia on December 9, 1993, at the age of 67.

Blanchflower’s hometown of Belfast has honoured him with an Ulster History Circle plaque, located at his childhood home at 49 Grace Avenue, recognising the late sportsman as one of the greatest players in the history of Tottenham Hotspur FC.