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


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Birth of Jackie Blanchflower, Northern Irish Footballer

John “Jackie” Blanchflower, Northern Irish footballer, is born on March 7, 1933, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He graduates from Manchester United‘s youth system and plays for the club on 117 occasions, winning two league titles, before his career is cut short due to injuries sustained in the Munich air disaster. He is also capped 12 times at senior level by Northern Ireland.

Blanchflower is the younger brother of Danny Blanchflower, the captain of the Tottenham Hotspur side that dominates English football in the early 1960s.

Blanchflower’s first appearance in a professional game is for Manchester United on November 24, 1951, against Liverpool, away at Anfield. He becomes a regular first team player in the 1953–54 season, when he plays in 27 out of 42 league games and scores 13 goals as an inside-forward.

Blanchflower helps the club win the league title in 1956 and again in 1957. Nicknamed “Twiggy” by his teammates, he is renowned for his versatility. He begins his career as a left-half before the emergence of Duncan Edwards in this position, at which time he switches to the forward positions. The Manchester United manager, Matt Busby, recognises his intelligent positioning sense and aerial power and chooses to play him at centre-half by the 1955–56 season, with John Doherty and Billy Whelan now competing for his former position. He faces fierce competition for the solitary centre-half place due to the presence of Mark Jones. He covers in goal in the 1957 FA Cup Final while Ray Wood receives treatment for an injury suffered in a collision with Peter McParland, who scores both of Aston Villa‘s goals as United loses 2–1. Blanchflower also plays in some of United’s first European Cup fixtures.

Blanchflower scores 27 goals during his time with Manchester United, most of them during his time as a forward.

On February 6, 1958, the Manchester United team that had travelled to Belgrade for the second leg of a European cup tie have their chartered plane stop in Munich to refuel. Weather conditions cause the plane to crash when the pilot attempts to take-off from Munich airport and 23 of the 44 people on board are killed. Blanchflower is severely injured, suffering from a fractured pelvis and arms and legs, and crushed kidneys, and his right arm is nearly severed. He is in hospital for two months and, although not a Catholic, is read the last rites but survives.

Blanchflower tries to return to football, but never makes a full recovery. Doctors advise him not to return to football because of fears he would damage his kidney and, a year later, he retires from football. The Munich air disaster means that he had played his last game of football when still only 24 years old, having earned 12 caps for Northern Ireland, played well over 100 times for Manchester United and won two league championship medals.

Blanchflower marries his wife Jean in 1956 and eventually pursues studies in finance and begins a career as an accountant. He later becomes an after-dinner speaker and is a regular on the after-dinner circuits until his death from cancer on September 2, 1998. He is 65 years old, and just two weeks prior to his death he attended the Munich air disaster testimonial match at Old Trafford.

He is survived by his three children; Krista, Senior (born 1958), Laurie (born 1961) and Andrew (born 1963), as well as his wife, Jean, who dies in 2002 following a long illness.


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Birth of Irish Sports Broadcaster Jimmy Magee

Jimmy Magee, Irish sports broadcaster known as The Memory Man, is born on January 31, 1935, in New York City. He spends over half a century in sports broadcasting, and presents radio and television coverage of the Olympic Games since 1968 and the FIFA World Cup since 1966. By the time of his retirement he is the longest-serving sports commentator in the English-speaking world.

Magee is born to Patrick (Paddy) Magee and his wife Rose (née Mackin). The family returns to Ireland shortly after his birth. He and his three siblings are subsequently raised in Cooley, County Louth. As a child he is influenced by the sports commentary of the legendary Gaelic games broadcaster Michael O’Hehir. He recalls commentating as a seven-year-old for his next-door neighbour on a variety of imaginary games that the young Magee is also playing in. He also speaks of making up his own radio commentary in a field at a young age.

After being educated locally, Magee secures a full-time clerical post with Dundalk, Newry and Greenore Railway. While still working at the Railway he begins his broadcasting career. He starts out as a reporter for the Radio Éireann programme Junior Sports Magazine. Other contributors on the programme are Jim Tunney and Peter Byrne, former football correspondent with The Irish Times. On leaving his Railway job, he presents a number of sponsored radio programmes before concentrating on sport. He is a producer, presenter and script writer for Radio Éireann’s sponsored programmes in the 1950s and 1960s.

Magee and his wife Marie are married on October 11, 1955, and have five children: Paul, a soccer player with Shamrock Rovers F.C. (winning the League of Ireland Cup in 1977), who died of motor neuron disease, in May 2008, Linda (b. 1959), June (b. 1961), Patricia (b. 1962), and Mark (b. 1970).

Magee joins Raidió Teilifís Éireann in 1956. In 1966 he covers his first World Cup for RTÉ Radio. He does likewise for the 1970 FIFA World Cup before transferring to television for the 1974 FIFA World Cup finals. In all he provides commentary at eleven World Cups – his latest commentary coming at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

Magee’s column or quiz appears in every single publication of the Sunday World since the first edition in 1973.

Magee is also a staple of RTÉ’s coverage of the Olympic Games. Beginning at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, he attends the eleven subsequent Olympic games as a commentator with RTÉ. In 2012, he commentates on the boxing for RTÉ at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, including Katie Taylor‘s gold medal-winning fight. At the 2016 Summer Olympics, he provides commentary on the football.

From 1987 to 1998 Magee hosts Know Your Sport, a sports-themed quiz show, along with George Hamilton. His broadcasting career also sees him provide commentary for over 200 international football games, 30 European Cup finals, multiple Tour de France cycle races, World Athletic Championships and boxing. He also narrates numerous videos on sport in general such as The Purple and Gold, Meath Return to Glory, etc.

A freelancer, Magee works for Channel 4 in 1994 and signs for UTV in 1995 on a three-year contract where a lifetime ambition of commentating on All-Ireland Finals is achieved. He commentates on three finals in both hurling and football.

Magee launches his memoir, Memory Man, in 2012. Some of his one-liners in commentaries have become famous or infamous, what are affectionately known in the broadcasting industry as Colemanballs after the famed commentating clangers of BBC broadcaster David Coleman.

In the emotionally trying year of 1989, Magee’s mother and wife die within months of each other, Marie dying at the young age of 54.

Magee dies on September 20, 2017, after a short illness. Many tributes are made to him including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar who says, “His commentaries were legendary and based on a breadth of sporting knowledge that was peerless.” RTÉ Head of Sport Ryle Nugent says, “It’s hard to put it into words, the man meant an inordinate amount to so many people, I think he was the soundtrack to many generations.”

In 1972 Magee wins a Jacob’s Award for his radio sports commentaries. In 1989, he is the subject of a special tribute show on The Late Late Show. At the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the International Olympic Committee presents him with a replica of its torch.


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Birth of Martin O’Neill, Association Football Player & Manager

Martin Hugh Michael O’Neill, OBE, Northern Irish association football manager and former player who played as a midfielder, is born in Kilrea, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland, on March 1, 1952, the sixth child of nine siblings.

O’Neill’s father is a founding member of local GAA club Pádraig Pearse’s GAC Kilrea. He plays for both Kilrea and Derry at underage level. He also plays Gaelic football while boarding at St. Columb’s College, Derry, and later at St. Malachy’s College, Belfast.

Starting his career in Northern Ireland, O’Neill moves to England where he spends most of his playing career with Nottingham Forest, with whom he wins the European Cup twice, in 1979 and 1980. He is capped 64 times for the Northern Ireland national football team, also captaining the side at the 1982 FIFA World Cup.

During his managerial career O’Neill manage Grantham Town, Wycombe Wanderers, Norwich City, Leicester City, Celtic, Aston Villa and Sunderland. He guides Leicester City to the Football League Cup final three times, winning twice. As Celtic manager between 2000 and 2005, he leads that club to seven trophies including three Scottish Premier League titles and the 2003 UEFA Cup Final. After joining Aston Villa he achieves three consecutive sixth-place finishes in the English Premier League and guides them to the 2010 Football League Cup Final.

O’Neill becomes Republic of Ireland manager in 2013 and leads them to qualification for the 2016 UEFA European Football Championship for the third time in the nation’s history, beating the reigning world champions, Germany, in the process. He leaves the role with assistant Roy Keane by “mutual agreement” in November 2018. He is appointed as Nottingham Forest manager on January 15, 2019. He guides the club to a ninth-place finish in the Championship. However, he is sacked as manager on June 28, 2019, after reportedly falling out with some of the senior first team players.

Despite never completing his degree, O’Neill remains a follower of criminology. His fascination begins with the James Hanratty case of 1961. He has worked in television as an analyst for BBC and ITV at the FIFA World Cup, the UEFA European Championship and on UEFA Champions League matches.

In 2002, Norwich supporters voted O’Neill into the club’s Hall of Fame. He is awarded an OBE for services to sport in 2004. He is awarded the Nottingham Lifetime Achievement Award on November 3, 2013 for his services to football and achievements with Nottingham Forest.