Sport Soccer

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Big fish in a small pond

KEITH Gillespie isn't the first big-name player to end up spending some time in the League of Ireland late in his career. Back in the 1930s, Dixie Dean moved to Sligo, just ahead of World War II, to enjoy a successful spell with the Bit O' Red.

Yet it was in the 1970s that a host of star names flocked to these shores as club owners, battling dwindling crowds with interest in English football on TV growing, gambled on bringing in star names on short term deals to boost the coffers.

Bobby Charlton

The Manchester United legend bucked the trend by playing the majority of a season with Waterford United. The World Cup winner, then in his 38th year, scored 18 goals in 31 appearances for the Blues. Charlton's arrival improved attendances, although there was slight controversy before an away game against Bohs when Charlton confirmed his participation late, the crowd was below expectations and the hosts refused to share the cash from the stiles.

George Best

Best was brought to Cork Celtic in December 1975 by manager Paul O'Donovan, an era where plenty of marquee names passed through Leeside. Best failed to impress in three games and promptly moved on to the next stage of a colourful career. Geoff Hurst would also arrive at Celtic for a month, while, two years later, German great Uwe Seeler arrived to score twice in his only outing -- a 6-2 loss to Shamrock Rovers.

Gordon Banks

Banks was another World Cup winner who came to these shores, and his stay was extremely fleeting. Banks' story was even more remarkable given that his career appeared to be finished in 1972 when he lost an eye in a car accident. However, he fought back to line out in North America. Then, in October 1977, St Pat's needed a goalkeeper for a home game against Shamrock Rovers. 40-year-old Banks was drafted in, kept a clean sheet in a 1-0 win, and promptly went back to the States.

big name list

Dixie Dean -- Sligo Rovers (1938)

Geoff Hurst -- Cork Celtic (1976)

Rodney Marsh -- Cork Hibs (1976)

Terry Venables -- St Patrick's Athletic (1976)

Uwe Seeler -- Cork Celtic (1977)

Jimmy Johnstone -- Shels (1977)

Peter Lorimer -- UCD (1983)

Terry McDermott -- Cork City (1985)

Trevor Brooking -- Cork City (1985)

Mick Channon -- Finn Harps (1986)

Frank Worthington -- Galway United (1989)

Steve Archibald -- Home Farm (1996)

Irish Independent

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