FAI History, Chapter 5 – World Cup 1950

FAI History, Chapter 5 – World Cup 1950

John Joseph Carey was born in Dublin in February 1919 and probably did more than any other person to win for the Republic of Ireland a positive image on the world stage and a reputation as a substantial football force.Carey, as with most Irish players, grew up playing Gaelic as well as football and he went on to serve Ireland and the FAI as player and international team manager in a manner that set a benchmark beyond the reach of most mortals.The late great manager of Manchester United, Sir Matt Busby, described him as one of the greatest ever players to represent the club and he did so as captain with huge distinction throughout a career that drew universal praise wherever his commitment to country and club took him.Carey's talent was nurtured at that great nursery of Irish talent, Home Farm, and he was recruited by United two months after joining St. James' Gate at the start of the 1936/'7 season. The transfer fee was £250.00.Carey epitomised the ideal classic qualities of a club captain; he was quietly spoken and dignified in his bearing,. While he was fiercely competitive on the pitch, his actions were always governed by his natural sense of sportsmanship and decency.He made his first team debut in September 1937 at 18 years of age and within two months was handed his first international cap by Ireland. The impact he made was immediate and enduring as his natural characteristics and rich talent ensured he quickly assumed a leadership role in both camps.Overall Carey made 350 appearances for United and played in ten positions for them, the only exception was outside left. He stepped in as emergency goalkeeper when the regular goalkeeper took ill before a League match against Sunderland.He was Busby's right arm as the manager laid the foundations for United's spectacular growth and became the first Irishman to captain an FA Cup winning team in 1948. Four years later he captained United to their first League Championship title in forty years.He was voted "Footballer of the Year" in England in 1949 and again in 1950 when he was nominated as Britain's "Sportsman of the Year".He was no less distinguished at international level. He captained the international teams of Northern Ireland and the Republic and in 1947, he was paid a singular honour when he was chosen to captain a team representing the Rest of Europe.The Rest of Europe selection played a Great Britain selection at Hampden Park in Glasgow in a game that was staged to raise money for FIFA after the bleak years of World War Two.Carey spent all his adult years in England but he never lost his Irishness and his love of the Irish language. His sense of duty decreed that he volunteer for service with the British Army in 1940 and he was posted to Italy.There he played part-time professional football under the assumed name of "Cario" but he declined an invitation to remain and play full-time when the War ended.It was a happy decision for United and Ireland and his influence endured for many years for when he retired from playing, he served the FAI as consultant/coach/manager to the International team.It was entirely natural that when the Irish selectors next met after the shock loss to Belgium it was to Carey they turned for advice and assistance.The upcoming World Cup campaign helped to focus minds on the urgency of following a more professional approach and they enlisted the support of Carey when they met to select the next international team to play Portugal at Dalymount Park on May 22, 1949.The club season in England had ended and so the demands of playing for club and then country within a 24 hour time span was not a complication. Carey suggested the timing should be further exploited by bringing the players together four days before the game.The result was a performance that was much more cohesive and well-balanced and before 28,000 fans, Ireland defeated Portugal for the first time in four meetings. The only goal was a penalty from Paddy Coad after 35 minutes.This match represented a major opportunity to prepare the team for the World Cup qualifying programme which was set to start for Ireland in the month immediately after the win over Portugal. The luck of the draw did no favours for Ireland for they were handed an assignment with Sweden as a first test for qualification for the finals that were set for Brazil.Sweden had won universal acclaim by winning the Olympic Games tournament in London in 1948 and they prepared for the visit of Ireland in June of 1949 by out-scoring England 3-1 in the Resunda Stadium, Stockholm, where the Ireland match was played.One change was made in the Irish team as Jackie O'Driscoll was recalled in place of Peter Corr, who had played Gaelic for Louth before joining Everton.The team that represented Ireland in Stockholm was:Tommy Godwin (Shamrock Rovers); Jackie Carey (Manchester United) capt., Rory Keane (Swansea Town); Eddie Gannon (Sheffield Wednesday), Con Martin (Aston Villa), Tommy Moroney (West Ham); Jackie O'Driscoll (Swansea town), Paddy Coad (Shamrock Rovers), Davy Walsh (West Bromwich Albion), Danny McGowan (West Ham), Tommy Eglington (Everton).Ireland started the game in sensational fashion with a goal after nine minutes. Jackie O'Driscoll made the break on the right before firing the ball across the penalty area and Davy Walsh, an accomplished goalscorer, knocked it into the net at the far upright.That was the peak as far as Ireland were concerned, however, for Sweden were level almost immediately when Con Martin was deemed to have handled and Sune Andersson converted the penalty. Godwin had to lift the ball out of the net a second time before half-time and the issue was settled when Sweden claimed a third goal in the 69th minute.The disappointment of this defeat clung like a shroud to the shoulders of Ireland's players next time out as the slumped to a 1-4 defeat to Spain on June 12 at Dalymount Park. But the kick-off of the new season and the magic of the World Cup saw Irish spirits soaring again when Finland travelled to Dublin to play a qualifying tie on September 8th, 1949.There was the further tantalising prospect of a first-ever game against England on September 21st to excite the players and they duly responded by hammering Finland 3-0 to register Ireland's first World Cup victory.It was the first international game to be staged in Dublin on a Thursday and it threw up a couple of other unusual novelties, not least an extraordinary sequence at kick-off time.Arthur Fitzsimons almost scored a comic-book goal as he immediately dribbled through from half-way and, after drawing the goalkeeper, clipped the ball towards the empty net. But Johnny Gavin spoiled things as he attempted to make sure for in his haste he headed over the bar.An injury to Brendan Carroll as early as the 25th minute caused a problem. You could only nominate one substitute in those days and the man selected was Paddy Daly, a defender. The powerful Con Martin was switched to centre-forward and he showed his unusual versatility by scoring twice - converting a penalty and heading in a corner.The team that represented Ireland on that historic day was: Tommy Godwin (Shamrock Rovers); Jackie Carey (Manchester United) capt, Tom Aherne (Luton Town); Eddie Gannon (Sheffield Wednesday), Con Martin (Aston Villa), Tommy Moroney (West Ham); Johnny Gavin (Norwich City), Arthur Fitzsimons (Middlesbrough), Brendan Carroll (Shelbourne), Peter Desmond (Middlesbrough), Tommy O'Connor (Shamrock Rovers). Sub: Paddy Daly (Shamrock Rovers) for Carroll 25 mins.The win, and the manner in which Ireland dominated Finland, set the scene perfectly for the match against England at Goodison Park two weeks later. It was a surprise then that the selectors, in time-honoured fashion it seems, should make four changes to the team.The major shock was that they preferred Tommy O'Connor to Tommy Eglington on the left wing and so denied Eglington the opportunity of playing against England on his club ground.England were preparing for the start of the British Championship, which was to serve as their World Cup qualifying tournament. They had the formidable pairing of Wilf Mannion and Tom Finney working the left flank and they introduced Peter Harris and Jesse Pye in attack.The Irish made no special plans for this game, the players had to make their own way to their base in Southport. Con Martin later explained how he travelled alone by bus from Birmingham and then caught a taxi to Southport.Martin later was quoted as saying: "I remember looking around and fearing the worst. For my money there were too many small lads (in the team), too many square pegs in round holes to have any real chance against a team we reckoned was one of the best."Jackie Carey gave the team talk, such as it was, but I suspect that deep down he was feeling much the same as myself. We were told to go out and play our own game and above all ‘get stuck in'."What happened was totally unpredictable. England dominated Ireland in the opening half-hour as Billy Wright and Jimmy Dickinson ruled midfield and served their talented forward line.Ireland then caught them with a classic breakaway goal. Tommy O'Connor sent Peter Desmond driving into the penalty area and, in desperation, Bert Mozley took him down from behind. Con Martin rapped home the penalty although goalkeeper Bert Williams got a touch.The 51,000 spectators were stunned as were England whose punctured pride led to even more pressure on the Irish in the second half. But Ireland had Tommy Godwin in inspired form and they defended with immovable determination.England's growing agitation rebounded on them as they pushed more and more players forward. They were caught cold again five minutes from full-time when Tommy O'Connor sent Peter Farrell in on goal and the Everton player drove a second goal past goalkeeper Williams. It was the first defeat of England by a foreign team in England.In spite of this significant win, the Irish selectors chose to make changes for the return World Cup tie against Finland just 18 days later. They picked Tim Coffey (Drumcondra) for his first cap in place of Willie Walsh at right-half. Johnny Gavin, who had played well against Finland in the first game, returned in place of Peter Corr.Davy Walsh had the ball in the net in the Olympiastadion, Helsinki, early in the game but it was disallowed for some obscure reason. Peter Farrell finally put a stuttering Ireland in front in the 65th minute but Finland took advantage of their off-colour performance by equalising two minutes from time.The loss of a point meant that Ireland had to defeat Sweden in their final match if they were to earn a play-off for the World Cup finals. And 41,000 spectators filled Dalymount Park on November 13, 1949 to see them try.Sweden proved too good, however, and they scored twice in the opening half, the second arriving when the Irish players stopped playing on hearing a whistle. Unfortunately it had been sounded by somebody in the crowd and although Con Martin cut the deficit with a penalty in the second half, a 19 years old striker, Kalle Palmer, completed his hat-trick of goals.Ireland had failed to qualify but, ironically, an invitation later arrived from FIFA to take a place in the finals when Argentina and France withdrew. The FAI declined on the basis that they had been given no time to prepare.Club football in Ireland continued apace throughout the 1940s despite the Second World Way. Indeed there were many players pursuing their passion in the League of Ireland who would, in another era, have been successfully operating as full-time professionals with the top clubs in England.The dominance of the Dublin clubs in the 1930s era was shattered over the ten years after St. James' Gate League victory in the 1939/'40 season. The pre-eminent force in the land was an extraordinary group of players representing Cork United.Cork United won five titles in six seasons from 1940/'41 and reached four FAI Cup finals, winning two. It was a first golden era in Cork and one that has never been repeated with the same extravagant success.The Cork team, composed entirely of professional players, was hugely popular throughout the land for the quality of the football they played and it was a tribute to them that so many won full international honours.They had three goalkeepers in that era, for instance, all of whom played for Ireland - Nedser Courtney, Jim ‘Fox' Foley and Billy Harrington.They had players like Liam O'Neill and "Big Seanie" McCarthy who were successful North and South of the border and players who played professionally in England after the end of the War - Billy Hayes, Tommy Moroney, Jackie Reilly, Jackie O'Driscoll.Florrie Burke and Timothy Jim O'Keeffe, "Small Seanie" McCarthy, Paddy O'Leary, Billy Cotter were other famous players synonymous with a club which, sadly, collapsed after a decade of unprecedented success.
8th Apr 2011