Friday 30 September 2016

Jamie Vardy falls short as Irishman Jimmy Dunne keeps his goalscoring record

Published 28/11/2015 | 18:50

Jimmy Dunne (circled) and (inset) Jamie Vardy
Jimmy Dunne (circled) and (inset) Jamie Vardy

He may have broken Ruud van Nistelrooy's record by scoring in 11 consecutive Premier League games, but Jamie Vardy has fallen short of the all-time record of 12 scored by Irishman Jimmy Dunne.

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Leicester City did bag three goals at Swansea today, but it was Riyad Mahrez who grabbed the hat-trick in a 3-0 win.

Jimmy Dunne scored in 12 consecutive games in English football's top flight in the 1931-32 season with Sheffield United and it remains a record to this day, with Vardy now just one short on 11.

Here is an article by Daniel McDonnell, published in the Irish Independent last January, which illustrates what a player Dunne was.

 

Have you heard about the Irishman who was interned during the Civil War, challenged orders to give a Nazi salute on a trip to Germany in 1939, and once scored 41 goals in an English First Division season?

Jamie Vardy scores the first goal for Leicester City to break the record after scoring in eleven consecutive Premier League games
Jamie Vardy scores the first goal for Leicester City to break the record after scoring in eleven consecutive Premier League games

If the answer is no, chances are you're unfamiliar with the story of Jimmy Dunne, another significant figure who has been forgotten in the trimming of football history to run in tandem with the lifespan of colour television.

Last month's reflections on the career of Andy McEvoy, the Wicklow man who topped the English scoring charts in 1965, was followed by a stream of correspondence recounting memories of the great man, especially from fans of Limerick.

It also prompted a few readers to mention the name of Dunne, a player they'd heard about in their youth without ever seeing him in the flesh.

His entry in the record books is the highest goalscoring return by an Irish player in a top-flight season across the water, an incredible return of 41 goals for Sheffield United in the 1930/'31 campaign. Unfortunately for him, Aston Villa's Tom Waring scored 49.

Dunne was prolific for United in this period, striking 36 in 1929/'30, 33 in 1931/'32 and 26 in 1932/'33, eventually earning himself a £8,000 move to join Arsenal and their famous manager Herbert Chapman. He won a league medal there without hitting the same heights.

Those figures alone mark the Dubliner down as a superb footballer, yet he managed to pack a whole lot more into his short life which ended in 1949 after a heart attack at the age of just 44.

A short death notice in the 'Irish Press' listed his sporting achievements in tandem with his teenage activities as a 'former member of 'D' Company IRA who was interned at Curragh and Portlaoise where he spent a term on hunger strike'.

Subsequent records suggest his brother, Christy, was an active republican and Dunne was interned by Free State authorities because of his association. Either way, it meant the budding footballer, who came from a GAA family, honed his skills in five-a-side matches in the prison yard.

Upon his release, Dunne, nicknamed 'Snowy' on account of his hair colour, joined Shamrock Rovers yet he was unable to break into a formidable team. However, word of his talent led to English Third Division side New Brighton bringing him across the water and from there he went on to Sheffield.

The patriot paid a price for his success. His employers refused to release him for international duty after scoring twice on his debut against Belgium in 1930.

This was the time where players could line out for both the FAI XI and the Belfast-led IFA XI. Dunne scored four in seven outings for the latter, and 13 in 15 matches for the FAI, a pre-war record that was only broken by Noel Cantwell in 1967.

Considering he had to wait until 1936 for a second cap, it's safe to assume that he would have set a stiffer target if he'd been available in his peak years.

Nobody doubted his passion for the cause and his legacy was enhanced by his conduct on the trip to take on Germany in Bremen in 1939, a period where the FAI had to travel to find opposition as near neighbours were slow to recognise their existence.

The Irish delegation, the last team to visit before the invasion of Poland, were keen to keep the natives happy and urged their starting 11 to give the Nazi salute before kick-off, just as a visiting English side had done 12 months previously.

Dunne, the captain for the trip, was a socialist and politically aware enough to form his own opinion on the fascist gesture and encourage his team-mates to rebel.

The story goes that he shouted 'Remember 1916, Remember Aughrim' down the line at the crucial moment as he refused to raise his arm while others awkwardly complied although the pictures are grainy and contrasting versions have been told. Dunne was kicked off the park in a 1-1 draw.

He'd returned home to Rovers by then with the 'Irish Independent' learning of the news after he was spotted leaving a mail-boat accompanied by his wife and children. "His luggage suggested that it was a homecoming rather than a holiday," deduced the hack.

This started a love affair with the Hoops, with Dunne hired as player-manager and winning leagues in 1938 and 1939. His relationship with the Cunningham family was strained and he departed to Bohs for a spell before returning to Rovers in 1947 as coach.

He played a key role in the formative days of the group which reclaimed the title in 1954 under his old pal Paddy Coad. Paddy Ambrose, a starring member of 'Coad's Colts', was nurtured by Dunne. "He haunted me," recalled Ambrose in 1987, explaining that he was reluctant to commit to the sport but Dunne believed in his talent and wouldn't let him slip away, sending taxis to his house to make sure he made training.

Ambrose vindicated his judgment, but the mentor was not around for the blossoming of the generation which he'd heavily influenced.

He also missed out on seeing his son Tommy, an accomplished performer with St Pat's, pull on the green jersey.

Dunne's sudden passing at his Sandymount residence was a tragedy, depriving a young family of their father and bringing an abrupt conclusion to a football story that had chapters left in it.

In a time of drastic change, he was an inspiring figure and his achievements should not be allowed to fade from memory.

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