|Date Of Birth:||July 20 1933|
|Place Of Birth:||Dundalk|
|Date Of Death:||Sept 20 2006|
|Place Of Death:||Southampton|
|Debut:||10-Sep-50, City Cup, (A) Limerick|
Left-fullback Tommy Traynor, the product of local club St Patricks, had just turned 17 years of age when he was promoted, in September 1950, from the club’s Reserves and Youth squad for a City Cup trip to the Market’s Field in Limerick in the absence of Joe Ralph and Francis O’Reilly.
According to the Dundalk Democrat ‘Young Traynor stole the limelight…played a rattling good game…was resourceful and courageous.’ He kept his place for the next two games, all away from home. His Oriel Park debut came on December 31st 1950 in a League game against Sligo Rovers, replacing the injured Johnny Fearon.
He was a member of a high quality Dundalk Youth squad that had progressed to the semi-finals of both the FAI and Leinster Minor Cups and included a number of International and Inter-League players, (Peter McParland, Walter Durkan, Sean McCarthy, Harry McQuillan, Jackie McCourt, and Tom McCabe).
For the following season, Tommy’s place was with the reserves until a rash of injuries saw him line out in a League game against Sligo Rovers in early February, on the weekend before the first round 1952 FAI Cup clash against St Patrick’s Athletic.
This time there was no going back to the reserves. A superb Cup game—‘young Traynor kicked, headed and tackled like a veteran’—secured his place for the remainder of the season, thanks to a merciless sliding tackle and a deceptive turn of speed.
A tough-tackling, uncompromising defender, by the season’s end he had in his possession a coveted FAI Cup medal, after Dundalk defeated Cork Athletic in a final replay, an Amateur International Cap against Scotland and an impressive list of English League club suitors, including Chelsea, Manchester City and Southampton. As a result of the persuasive skills of ex-Dundalk keeper Freddie Kiernan, in June 1952 Tommy headed for the Dell.
He was blooded in his first season (1952-53 when the Saints were relegated to Division 3 South), making his debut in October against Brentford and the following year he became the regular left-back. During a distinguished one-club English League career, he missed very few games and set a new club appearances record.
By the time he retired, after 14 seasons, at the end of the 1965-66 season he had clocked up 480 Appearances, and now stands 5th in the all time Saints League appearances table. He played leading roles in the club’s 1959-60 Third Division Championship win, and in his final season, the Saints were promoted for the first time to the First Division.
In his later years, he became an influential figure at the club, where his presence and influence were an inspiration to younger players, and he was granted a prestigious testimonial against Dutch club Twente Enschede.
His first of eight Irish International caps came in 1954 in a World Cup 1-0 win against Luxembourg, partnering another ex-Dundalk player Tom Clinton. It took eight years before Tommy received his second call-up, in April 1962 against Austria. He then became a regular member of the Irish team, playing in seven successive games, until his last Cap against Spain in March 1964 in a European Championship game. In his eight Irish appearances he was on the losing side on only two occasions. He quit football after playing one game in Southampton’s 1966 promotion year.
Afterwards he worked at the Southampton Docks as a checker and retained an active football interest, being a founder member of the local Tyro Football League, to which he devoted 40 years and which has a number of trophies named after him. He joined his 1952 Cup colleagues for their 2002 Reunion at Oriel Park and was himself honoured by the FAI when he was elected to their Hall of Fame shortly before Dundalk’s 2002 FAI Cup victory over Bohemians.
A Southampton team-mate, Ken Wilmhurst, said that ‘you wouldn’t call Tommy an ideal athlete, but he had a super football brain and a super left foot.’
Tommy not only took the young Mike Channon under his wing but also into his own home: a ‘big brother’ as the four Traynor children recalled. Channon reciprocated with very warm memories of his surrogate-family and his mentoring from ‘a man of high morals…who enjoyed a drink and a bet and liked a good laugh.’ Renowned for his sliding tackle, he was booked only once and, Channon claimed, ‘he could slide further than he could run.’
What They Said About Him
On his death in 2006 Duncan Holley, Southampton historian, paid this tribute:”Whilst his 480 games has been surpassed, he remains a colossus when analysing the Saints post war history…an absolute fearsome defender, as tough as they come…but off the pitch he had the charm and wit of so many that hailed from his native land…he would not have fitted in to the over hyped circus that the present day game has generated into.
No…he would have played hard, drunk hard and then caught the bus home sitting alongside the fans who had, that afternoon, cheered him on the terraces…Tommy was a legend who lived among the fans that made him a legend and now his final ‘hanging up of his boots’ marks the passing of an era in more ways than one”.
1 Win: FAI Cup 1951-52.
1 Amateur cap