|Date Of Birth:||1925|
|Date Of Death:||1986|
|Debut:||22-Aug-48, City Cup, (A) v. Limerick|
*Dual FAI Cup medallist with Dundalk in the 1950s, Johnny Fearon returned to Oriel Park twenty years later, serving as trainer-physio under four managers, Liam Tuohy, Fran Brennan, John Smith and Jim McLaughlin.*
Newry-based Bus conductor Johnny Fearon had already shown his qualities as a defender with Newry Celtic in the Newry League and with Newry Town when he moved to Dundalk in 1948.
His displays with St Patricks in the Dundalk Junior League brought him to the attention of Dundalk officials and he started with the Reserves in 1947-48, making his first team debut in the opening match of the following season, playing at left-full in a Dublin City Cup game away to Limerick.
Within weeks he had pocketed a winner’s medal after Dundalk’s new Scottish team had swept all before them in an unbeaten 9-match sequence to take the City Cup. Before the season was completed Johnny, now playing at right-full, had added an FAI Cup winner’s and Inter-City Runner-up medals to his collection.
By the time he left Dundalk—6 seasons and 187 appearances later—he had added another FAI Cup to his collection in 1952 and had attained the status of a Dundalk idol.
A strong whole-hearted player, his aggressive competitive style contrasted sharply with his off the field demure—former Dundalk team-mate Joe Martin, who was also on the 1952 FAI Cup winning team, described him as ‘a gentleman to his fingertips’. His performances during the club’s 5-match Festival of Britain Tour in 1951 attracted the attention of both Tranmere and Liverpool but Johnny was not interested in a cross-channel move.
A versatile play-anywhere player, who was equally at home in either full-back position and lined out frequently at both right and left half. He won his 1949 FAI medal as a full back—for the 1952 campaign he was a goal scoring inside-right and his goal after 2 minutes in the Final replay set Dundalk on their way.
His five goals in the 1952 Cup run have never been bettered in a single FAI Cup campaign. In May 1954 Johnny Aston and Jack Rowley (Manchester Utd. and England) were two of the many stars who played in Johnny’s benefit game.
After leaving Dundalk, he spent a season with Ballymena United before transferring to Portadown, where in four seasons he won a runner-up award in the Gold Cup. After retiring in 1961 he returned to Newry Town, spending a number of seasons as coach, before going to Portadown as club physio. During his Newry Town stint he coached a promising young goalkeeper called Pat Jennings.
In 1971, under manager Liam Tuohy, he came back to Dundalk as trainer-physio and he was still in harness for Jim McLaughlin’s first season in 1974-75, retiring only because he had taken up a position that required night and Sunday working.
A handy boxer, he was attacked by angry St Patrick’s Athletic keeper Kinahan at the end of a controversial 1952 Cup tie at Oriel Park—the Democrat commented “this was a rather unwise selection, had he known who he was challenging”.
Johnny spent many years as the boxing coach at the Newry St. John Bosco Youth Club, many of his protégés going on to win Ulster and Irish boxing titles, and included British Heavyweight Champion Dan McAlinden. And such was the reputation of the club that world champion, Freddie Gilroy from Belfast, chose the club’s gym to train for a title fight at the Albert Hall, London.
An acquaintance described Johnny’s motto as `mens sana in corpore sano`, `a healthy mind in a healthy body.` He continued ‘And his presence in the club was an assurance to parents that their off-spring would be properly supervised, and engaged in worthwhile activities. John’s philosophy was to impart self-discipline and respect; to release one’s energy through sport; to take life’s knocks and still come back. ‘
Johnny died prematurely of cancer in 1986. He was honoured by the Mourne and District Council for services to sport and a special plaque in his honour was unveiled to mark Youth International Year, in recognition of his loyalty and dedication to the St John Bosco Club.
What They Said About Him
4 Wins:2 FAI Cup 1948-49, 1951-52; City Cup 1948-49; Leinster Cup 1950-51.
3 Runners Up: Inter City Cup 1948-49; 2 Presidents Cup 1949-50, 1952-53.