Kevin McGarry

Kevin McGarry
Date Of Birth: circa 1925
Place Of Birth: Belfast
Date Of Death: August 1995
Total Appearances: 2
Position: RW
Nationality: NI
Debut: 22-Jan-61 Lge (h) Cork Hibernians 2-0


Kevin McGarry played Gaelic football before being convinced to sign amateur forms with Belfast Celtic by Austin Donnelly. He played a few first team games at Paradise before signing with Cliftonville. At Solitude he remains a legendary figure, still widely regarded as the club’s greatest ever player. An inside-forward artist - either left or right - he was also a prolific goalscorer, his hauls of twelve goals in Inter-League fixtures and eleven in Amateur internationals are both Irish records.

International honours had first come McGarry’s way whilst he completed his studies at Queen’s University when selected for an Amateur International against England in February 1948. That match ended in a 5-0 defeat, but the following August he played for an Irish FA representative side against a United States team fresh from a 9-0 hammering by Italy in the London Olympics – the Irish had similar success, triumphing 5-0 with McGarry scoring twice. Four years later McGarry himself would make it to the Olympics, though Great Britain suffered a humiliating 5-3 Preliminary Round exit at the hands of Luxembourg in Helsinki.

Rewarded for his continued good form on both the domestic and amateur international stage with inclusion in Ireland’s 1950/51 Home Nations squad, McGarry made his Full International debut against Scotland at Hampden Park. His “well-taken goal” from a “stinging shot” in the 43rd minute made the scoreline 1-2, the Scots having scored twice in the opening thirteen minutes, and seemed to have rallied the Irish. In the second half however Willie Steel, putting in a Man of the Match performance, scored four times as the Scots completed a 6-1 rout.

After the Scots match, Ireland manager Peter Doherty retained McGarry in his international team for the next two internationals. With 24 goals to his credit, he was named as the inaugural Ulster Footballer of the Year in 1951. He played out his Irish League days with Cliftonville, scoring a club-record 172 goals, but as the club regularly sat at the foot of the Irish League, the major trophies his talents so deserved eluded him.

A prolific goal scorer, his CV includes 3 full caps (1 goal); 15 amateur caps (11 goals); 15 Irish League caps (12 goals); 2 Irish FA appearances; Great Britain Helsinki Olympics.

When his Irish League career was over, he made two forays into the League of Ireland.

With Sligo Rovers in 1959-60 he scored 6 goals in total. The Press noted that “he may not be as nippy as of yore but demonstrated that he retained his flair for scoring goals.” His 4 FAI Cup goals included a first round hat-trick in a 4-2 victory over Bray Wanderers.

[Sligo 1959-60: 6 Goals; 2 League and 4 FAI Cup.] Dundalk, under the influence of a Northern Ireland trio—the recently-arrived striker Jimmy Hasty, left-winger Jimmy McDonnell and wing-half Ted Harte—were joint leaders of the League at the half way stage of the 1960-61 season, but had continuous problems filling the right wing slot. The 36-year old McGarry arrived in January for a visit by Cork Hibernians and, while clearly not match fit, he contributed to a 2-0 home victory and helped swell the Oriel Park attendance to a season high. But following a loss on the next weekend to Waterford, another club with their sights on the championship, McGarry’s Dundalk career ended after 2 games.

He was the third Dundalk player to have participated in the Olympic Games as a member of the Great Britain squad, being preceded by Bertie Fulton (Berlin, 1936) and Kevin McAlinden (London, 1948).

[Dundalk 1960-61: 2 Lge Apps, 0 goals.]

He later coached at Cliftonville and served on the club management committee before rising to become club President.

Major Source: Northern Ireland's Footballing Greats website.