Who are Northern Ireland’s one-hit wonders? – BBC News

Liam Coyle is among the players to have only earned one Northern Ireland cap

With the football season on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, Northern Ireland ‘stat king’ Marshall Gillespie has been crunching the numbers.

This week, it is time to take a look at some of Northern Ireland’s one-cap wonders.

Some players were in the twilight of their careers, some were cruelly hit by injury and there’s even the father of a striker who won 46 international caps.

Who is your favourite one-hit wonder?

Despite being on the books at Manchester United for four years, Tom Connell actually made his one and only appearance for Northern Ireland while he was still in the Irish League with Coleraine.

The left-back, who had won the Irish Cup with the Bannsiders in 1977, was handed his full international debut by Danny Blanchflower, who used him as a substitute in the 1-0 Home Championship defeat to Wales in May 1978.

Three months later, Manchester United manager Dave Sexton brought him to Old Trafford and in December that year, he made his only two first-team appearances for the club against Bolton Wanderers and Liverpool.

After failing to establish himself at the Theatre of Dreams he was transferred back to the Irish League, with Ronnie McFall’s Glentoran splashing out £37,000 for his services.

Connell, who was also capped once at under-21 level, enjoyed further Irish Cup success when he won the trophy with the Glens in 1983 and 1986 as well as ending up with Gold Cup, Ulster Cup and Co Antrim Shield medals during his five-year stay at the Oval.

Although the Newry-born defender failed to play any more senior games for his country, he did gain representative honours with the Irish League when they beat their counterparts from the League of Ireland 4-0 in 1984.

McFall signed the full-back for a second time when he took him to Portadown in the summer of 1987 before Connell retired from the game because of injury after just two seasons at Shamrock Park.

If you had scored in a 3-2 win over England at Wembley on your international debut, you would naturally expect it to be the first of many appearances for your country.

However, when Sam McCrory achieved this unique feat in November 1957, he was the ripe old age of 33 and in the twilight years of his professional career.

The inside-forward, who had also found the net in his only outing for the Northern Ireland ‘B’ side a fortnight earlier, failed to add to his tally of senior caps despite being named in Peter Doherty’s squad for the 1958 World Cup Finals in Sweden.

McCrory, who was born in Belfast in 1924, started out with Linfield in the forties and scored in two successive Irish Cup final victories just after the war before being transferred to Swansea Town in October 1947.

He scored 48 goals in 108 appearances at Vetch Field in just under three seasons before Ipswich Town came calling, who paid £5,250 for his signature in March 1950.

From Portman Road his next stop in the summer of 1955 was with Third Division (South) outfit Southend United.

He became something of an iconic figure at the Shrimps after he scored their first goal at their new stadium Roots Hall before ending his five-year spell at the club with 99 goals in 222 matches.

A prolific scorer, who would now be classed as an attacking midfielder, McCrory ended his professional career with exactly 200 goals in 484 games.

After his playing days ended, he ran a bar in Donaghadee, the opening ceremony of which was performed by George Best in 1969.

He passed away at the age of 86 in 2011.

Goalkeeper Pat Kelly arrived from nowhere to make his international debut in 1949. He disappeared just as quickly after conceding eight goals in a World Cup qualifying encounter with Scotland at Windsor Park.

The 31-year-old Barnsley netminder, who was born in Johannesburg but who had Irish roots, was one of seven new caps in the side which were thrashed 8-2 by a rampant Scottish outfit.

It was Northern Ireland’s fifth successive defeat, and it is perhaps not surprising that he was never selected to play for his adopted country again.

Kelly first came to the fore when he left South African side Bloemfontein Pirates and joined Aberdeen in the close season of 1938, though he managed only four first team outings prior to the start of the Second World War.

During the six years of hostilities, Kelly remained in Scotland and played as a war-time guest for Dumbarton, Hamilton Academicals, St Mirren and Dundee United, before making another two appearances for Aberdeen when football resumed in 1946.

In October of that year he moved south of the border and joined Barnsley, where he played alongside Danny Blanchflower, and clocked up a total of 148 matches before leaving Oakwell for Crewe Alexandra.

He spent just over a season at Gresty Road before calling time on his professional career in 1955.

Kelly passed away in Rochdale at the age of 67 in September 1985.

Johnny Jamison was one of the most gifted midfielders of his generation and many observers believe should have won more than one solitary international cap.

That lone appearance for Northern Ireland arrived aged 28, when he started in the emphatic 3-0 success over Norway in a European Championship qualifier in Belfast in October 1975.

The Glentoran man sadly did not add to his tally of senior caps despite an impressive performance against a lacklustre Norwegian outfit.

Jamison began his career with ‘B’ Division side Dundela before moving to Crusaders, where he won the Irish Cup in 1968 when they beat Linfield 2-0 in the final.

Two years later though he moved across the city to join Glentoran after they paid £2,000 for his signature.

During his eleven seasons at the Oval, ‘Stumpy’, as he was affectionately known, won nine trophies including two League titles in 1972 and 1977, and an Irish Cup in 1973 when he scored in the 3-2 defeat of ‘Big Two’ rivals Linfield.

The technically gifted midfielder, who also won a Blaxnit All-Ireland’s winner’s medal in 1973, ended his career with the Glens having made 412 appearances and scored 134 goals for the club.

He returned to Crusaders for a season in 1981 before retiring from the game aged 33. He subsequently managed junior club 1st Liverpool and returned to the Oval to coach the reserve team for eight years.

How Fred Roberts, one of the most prolific goalscorers in the history of the Irish League, only ever gained one full international cap for his country still remains a mystery.

The Glentoran striker’s only appearance for Northern Ireland came in the season he scored a mind-blowing 96 goals in just 47 matches for the east Belfast outfit.

It was during that phenomenal 1930/31 campaign that the selectors named Roberts in the Irish starting XI for the game against Scotland at Windsor Park in February 1931.

The British Championship encounter ended scoreless, and despite the 6ft 2in striker’ having an impressive debut he was never to be seen in a blue (or green) shirt again.

Roberts, who was born in Ballymacarrett, was a prolific scorer in junior football with Newington Rangers and Broadway United, and in the Irish League with Queens Island before linking up with the Glens in the summer of 1928.

In his first term with the club he fired home an incredible 66 goals in just 44 matches, while his goalscoring prowess helped the Glens to title glory in 1931 after they finished nine points clear of Linfield.

He also enjoyed success in the Irish Cup, where he scored in back to back finals as Glentoran lifted the trophy in both 1932 and 1933.

After five years at the Oval, where he scored a staggering 332 goals in only 230 games, the club caused shock waves throughout the local game when they released him at the end of the 1932/33 campaign.

Following his departure he went on to give service to both Distillery and Dundela before returning to Glentoran as coach of the Olympic side.

Winger Peter Watson will go into the record books as having one of the shortest Northern Ireland careers in history.

It happened back in 1971, when Cyprus were the visitors to Belfast for a European qualifier against Billy Bingham’s team – with Northern Ireland already 5-0 up the Distillery man was introduced into the action in place of Sammy Todd with just two minutes left to play.

Unfortunately, that was the full extent of his international career and sadly no footage exists to determine whether the 26-year-old actually kicked a ball in anger that day.

Watson started out as a teenager with ‘B’ Division Newry Town, and it was not long before his potential was spotted and he was on his way across the water to join First Division Aston Villa for a fee of £1,500.

Within twelve months, homesickness had forced him to return to the province and join Glenavon, where in a six-year spell he won the City and Ulster Cups with the Lurgan Blues.

A brief and uneventful stint at Glentoran followed before he was snapped up by Distillery in December 1969.

It was at the Whites that the Coventry-born wide man really established himself in the Irish League, and he was a part of a talented Distillery outfit which defeated Derry City 3-0 to lift the Irish Cup in 1971.

He was the league’s joint top marksman in 1972 and in total he scored an impressive 61 goals in nearly 150 games for Distillery, before departing for Dundalk in the League of Ireland.

Watson ended his playing days back ‘home’ with Portadown and Dungannon Swifts, before entering management with the Tyrone side and then in the 90’s with Newry Town.

Liam Coyle had the world at his feet after making his Northern Ireland debut against Chile in 1989, just five days after his 21st birthday, but just months later his international career was effectively over because of injury.

In front of the smallest post-war crowd for a Northern Ireland home game, the Derry City striker came on as a substitute to make his senior international bow in May 1989, following in his father Fay’s footsteps.

An impressive performance for Derry City in the home leg of their European Cup tie against Benfica the following September, encouraged the Eagles’ boss Sven Goran Eriksson to table a bid for Coyle.

However, he suffered a knee injury prior to the second leg and further investigations revealed that he had a serious condition called Osteochondritis dissecans. On Doctor’s advice he retired at the end of that season.

Coyle was determined to play again, and after consultation with a faith healer he returned to football with Coleraine, albeit briefly, before Omagh Town manager Roy McCreadie signed him in the summer of 1992.

After just one season he was back at his first love, Derry City, where over the next two years he won a FAI Cup medal and was voted League of Ireland ‘Player of the Year’ in 1995.

In December 1995, Tommy Cassidy’s Glentoran paid £35,000 to take him from the Brandywell, but Coyle never settled at the Oval and just nine months later he was back at his local club.

He went on to win two League titles with Derry and another FAI Cup, before injuries eventually caught up with the 35-year-old and he hung up his boots in January 2004 after nearly 400 appearances and 113 goals for the Candystripes.

To have provided an assist and scored the winning goal on your Northern Ireland debut would have seemed the perfect way to announce your arrival on the international stage, however for Colin McCurdy that was as good as it got.

McCurdy got his opportunity of playing for the senior side when he was selected by Billy Bingham to go on Northern Ireland’s end-of-season tour to Australia in 1980.

In the final game of the three-match tour, Bingham brought the Linfield striker on as a substitute, replacing Billy Hamilton with Northern Ireland a goal down.

McCurdy proceeded to win the penalty to level the game, which Noel Brotherston duly dispatched, and 13 minutes from time he marked his debut with the winner.

He began his career in the Irish League with Linfield, but he departed Windsor Park in 1976 for Larne after a fallout with manager Roy Coyle, who had omitted him from the subsequent Irish Cup final defeat to Carrick Rangers.

At the age of 23 he got his chance in England with Second Division Fulham, who had just signed Rodney March and George Best, but he only played one game for the west London outfit after an ankle ligament injury sidelined him for a period of eight months.

He then had a spell with Philadelphia Fury in America before returning to Northern Ireland and re-joining Linfield in 1979 where, the following year, he went on to win an Irish League and Cup double with the Blues and the Tyler All Ireland Cup in 1981.

McCurdy ended his playing days with Crusaders and Bangor before embarking on a coaching career at Clandeboye Park (including two spells as manager) and Glenavon.

The majority of football record books indicate Northern Ireland’s equaliser in the friendly draw in Israel in 1976 was an own goal by home defender Avraham Lev, however debutant Warren Feeney would beg to differ.

Billy Bingham’s side, who were trailing 1-0 to a 36th-minute opener, restored parity when the Glentoran winger fired home a Trevor Anderson pass in off Lev, but Feeney still insists it was his goal despite what the history books may say.

Feeney, who was born in Swansea, started out with Ards before jumping at the chance to sign for Linfield in 1968. He then had a short spell at Distillery before moving into the professional game with Stoke City in the summer of 1971.

Feeney, whose son Warren junior won 46 Northern Ireland caps, unfortunately failed to make the grade at the Victoria Ground and when he returned to the province in October 1972, he signed on the dotted line for Glentoran who were then managed by George Eastham Senior.

His six years at the Oval saw him win a Championship and Irish Cup medal and in the 1975/76 season he topped the Glentoran scoring charts with 37 goals.

That sort of form led to international recognition, with Billy Bingham giving him his only senior cap – one which saw him emulate his father Jim, who made two full appearances for Northern Ireland in the 1940s.

In October 1978, after netting an astonishing 192 goals in just 236 appearances for the east Belfast outfit, Feeney made the move to south Belfast to join ‘Big Two’ rivals Linfield.

He enjoyed further success with the Blues winning two League titles and an Irish Cup before a move to Crusaders saw him end his playing days at Seaview in 1982.

Jack Milligan may not be a ‘one-cap wonder’ at all.

When Northern Ireland played a friendly against the Italians in Bologna on 25 April 1961, it has been indicated by a number of sources that Crusaders goalkeeper Jack Milligan came on as a half-time substitute for Arsenal netminder Jack McClelland.

Official records have never confirmed this, though after some research, Marshall discovered that Milligan was in fact one of the travelling party for the Italian trip and his participation in the game may well have occurred.

If he did indeed play the second forty-five minutes of the 3-2 defeat to Italy, he would therefore become the first ever substitute used by Northern Ireland in a full international.

What is a fact though is that he played for Northern Ireland at ‘B’ international level when they drew 1-1 with their French counterparts at Windsor Park in November 1959.

He also won two Amateur international caps and played on four occasions for the Irish League Representative side between 1961 and 1965.

Whether he is also a full Northern Ireland international though, still remains a source of debate.

Link to Original Story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.