Ardara man publishes history of Irish soccer players abroad

Donegal soccer players did not a fair deal

Ardara man publishes history of Irish soccer players abroad

Donegal soccer players and players from the North West in general did not get a fair crack of the whip when it came to winning Ireland caps in the 1980s.

That is the view of Michael McHugh, former Swilly Rovers and Bradford United player.

The Ramelton man makes the claim in a conversation with Dr Conor Curran, in his research for his latest publication, Irish Soccer Migrants.

Michael McHugh believes this was down to the lack of scouts attending games in Donegal.

He recalls how he was spotted playing in the Ulster Senior League for Swilly Rovers against Culdaff.

He was spotted by Derry based scout Eddie Davis, whose son Sean was managing Culdaff.

McHugh felt that there were many better youth players playing in the North West than those he saw playing professional football in the UK during his four seasons playing with Bradford United in the early 1990s.

Michael also stated the FAI only became aware that he was playing professionally in England when Northern Ireland manager, Billy Bingham, enquired if he was eligible to play for Northern Ireland.

Michael McHugh was among a group of 24 players that played professionally between 1945 and 2010 in England.

The others include Mick Meagan, Alfie Hale, Paddy Mulligan, Damien Richardson and Richie Sadlier, Brian Mooney, Martin Russell, Seamus Kelly, Michael McHugh, Barry Prenderville and Shane Supple.

The issue of Donegal players not getting a fair crack was also raised at FAI level by the late Letterkenny Rovers official John Gorey Curran in 1991 when he was elected on the Executive Council of the FAI Youth Council.

Following his election, Gorey Curran stated his immediate aim was to push for Interprovincial youth trials so that players from the North West would be given a chance to impress international selectors.

And to back up his argument Curran gave the example of the Letterkenny Rovers Youth team who were beaten by Home Farm in the FAI Youth Cup semi-final.

Letterkenny lost the game 0-1 but despite this none of the Letterkenny players had been given a trial while Home Farm had six players on the Irish team.

Irish Soccer Emigrants also tells that Declan Boyle from Killybegs and Paddy McDaid from Letterkenny had made Irish underage teams in the early 1990s.

But it also explains this probably was down to Stranorlar Vocational Schools teacher Alex Harkin being appointed Irish Schoolboys Under 18 manager.

Irish Soccer Emigrants chronicles the experiences and achievements of Irish born players who emigrated to England and further afield from 1888 right up to 2010. The history is compiled and written by Dr Conor Curran from Ardara, who played both Gaelic Football and soccer.

Nine Donegal born players played in England in the period 1945 to 2010.

Dr Curran is an Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in the School of Education at Trinity College, Dublin where he is researching the history of Physical Education in Ireland.

Irish Soccer Emigrants, published by the Cork University Press, is the second publication from Dr Curran.

His first was the highly acclaimed Development of Sport in Donegal 1880-1935.

Irish Soccer Migrants was published in November and is available in bookshops.

Donegal born players that played in England - 1945 -2010

Chris Fletcher, Tony Kernan, Owen Coll, Shay Given, Michael McHugh, Gary Doherty, Conrad Logan, Chris McMenamin, Seamus Coleman.

Players pre 1945: Billy Gillespie, Jimmy Murray, Bert Smith, Charlie O’Hagan, Billy Hagan.

Donegal players who played in the Scottish Premier and First Division only: Charlie O’Hagan, Billy O’Hagan, Jimmy Murray, Patsy Gallagher, Bernard Cannon, Hugh Doherty, Chris Fletcher, Michael Gallagher, Packie Bonner.