Thursday 21 November 2019

Daniel McDonnell: Remembering the legend of the great Jimmy Dunne

Before the outbreak of WWII the leading light of an Irish generation showed courage both on and off the park

Dubliner Jimmy Dunne sitting (centre) in the front row of this Sheffield United team picture.
Dubliner Jimmy Dunne sitting (centre) in the front row of this Sheffield United team picture.
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

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?

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.

Incredible

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.

Nurtured

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.

 

Magic Chelsea moment for charismatic Yeates a fitting reward after career of hard knocks

Mark Yeates may not have reached the level that some observers expected in his teens but it was sweet to see the Dubliner enjoy a special moment in Bradford's famous FA Cup win at Stamford Bridge.

Yeates always had a chance of being a good footballer because of his genes. His late father, Stephen, was a gifted League of Ireland performer who sadly died in 2002 at just 39.

Mark was playing for the Spurs youths on that sad day and the tattoo on his left arm simply reads 'Dad' to honour his memory.

The younger Yeates was on the fringes of the first team at White Hart Lane without ever making a proper breakthrough and duly embarked on a tour of the UK.

When he linked up Bradford in 2013, Yeates spoke honestly about the reality of the game and the fact he would be lining out for a tenth club in ten years between moves and loans.

"Unless you've had a long affinity with a club, it's hard to get attached," he said, admitting that the well-travelled pro simply has to adjust to the ups and downs.

Yeates is a skilful performer who certain managers are slow to trust because of his tendency to try something different.

On Saturday, Phil Parkinson opted to leave the 30-year-old on the bench but he was a fine option in the circumstances as the game opened up. His late goal was a thing of beauty; and, typically, he managed to make his contribution look easy.

A consistent top-flight career may have eluded him, but it's no surprise that this talented player didn't look out of place on that stage.

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