Saturday 24 August 2019

History of Merseyside derby littered with heroic Irish displays

John Aldridge celebrates after scoring for Liverpool against Everton in the 1989 FA Cup final. Photo: Bob Thomas/Getty Images
John Aldridge celebrates after scoring for Liverpool against Everton in the 1989 FA Cup final. Photo: Bob Thomas/Getty Images
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

If Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy happen to be influential in this evening's game at Goodison Park, they will add to the broad catalogue of significant Irish contributions to Merseyside derbies.

The green-tinted flavour to this fixture dates back more than 100 years, which is not surprising given the strong connection between Ireland and the city of Liverpool.

What has changed is a shift in focus to Everton - it's becoming harder for Irishmen to break through at Liverpool.

Young Dublin-born centre-half Conor Masterson is trying to establish himself at Anfield and was called into the first-team squad for an FA Cup tie against Exeter in January. He has lined out for the U-23 team alongside Corey Whelan, an English-born member of the Irish underage set-up.

Corkman Caoimhin Kelleher has featured in goals for the U-18s and U-23s and striker Glen McAuley, another Dubliner, is one of the newer arrivals at the club. They face a battle to make the breakthrough

Their countrymen Alex O'Hanlon and Daniel Cleary left the club this year, with O'Hanlon recently on trial at Huddersfield and Cleary signing up with Birmingham.

Ray Houghton celebrates after scoring Liverpool's winning goal in the FA Cup 5th Round clash of 1988. Photo: Bob Thomas/Getty Images
Ray Houghton celebrates after scoring Liverpool's winning goal in the FA Cup 5th Round clash of 1988. Photo: Bob Thomas/Getty Images

Everton, in contrast, have Coleman, McCarthy and the occasionally visible Darron Gibson in their first-team squad. Aiden McGeady is out on loan.

Irish U-21 internationals Courtney Duffus, Harry Charsley and Sam Byrne are also knocking on the door - the latter was formerly with Manchester United.

Steven Kinsella spent time back at home on loan with St Patrick's Athletic this year, while Wicklow keeper Tom Murphy signed pro forms in the summer.

They have a bit to go to make their mark in this prestigious fixture. Coleman and McCarthy will have the chance tonight to add to the collection of Irish derby stories, a selection of which are covered here.

October 5, 1912, Anfield: Liverpool 0 Everton 2

Over a century ago, the Merseyside derby featured an Irish player who had lined out for both clubs. This fixture resulted in victory for an Everton team that featured Val Harris - the Kevin Moran of his time in that he won an All-Ireland medal with Dublin in 1901 before moving across the water.

His exploits with Shelbourne earned him a move to Everton for £350 - the maximum fee allowed at the time. He spent six years at the club before leaving in 1914, the year that he won the British Home Championships with Ireland - he was also the skipper of the first Irish side to beat England, in Belfast, in 1913.

Harris wasn't the first Irishman at Everton; in 1898 they signed Jack Kirwan, another man who won an All-Ireland with Dublin.

On the opposite side was a former player, Bill Lacey, who had made the same journey from Shels to Everton as Harris. The Wexford man was a sturdy performer and Liverpool made a £300 move in a part-exchange deal. Lacey returned to Ireland during the First World War, but returned for a second and more successful stint at Liverpool, winning a pair of league titles.

A writer in the Liverpool match programme felt that he was better suited to the red half of the city when discussing his attributes - an insight into the respective styles of the clubs at that juncture.

"I have always had an idea that Lacey would make a better man for Liverpool than Everton," he wrote. "He has, it is true, been more than useful to the Blues, but he is the type of player that has always been associated with Liverpool than Everton. We as a rule play more robust football, due to the fact that our forwards have been bigger men."

Everton and Harris had the last laugh in front of 46,000 fans on that afternoon, though.

August 27, 1949, Goodison Park: Liverpool 0 Everton 0

In the late 1940s, Everton began the recruitment process that led to them being considered the 'Catholic club', although media reports at the time support the school of thought that they were always the chosen club of the large Irish emigrant community.

The link was strengthened when Peter Farrell, Peter Corr and Tommy Eglington crossed the Irish Sea to sign up, and they were all part of the visiting side in a scoreless draw in front of over 70,000 fans. Bob Paisley togged out for Liverpool.

It wasn't a classic. The significance here is that a month later, the Irish community enjoyed a historic breakthrough at the same venue when Ireland became the first foreign team to beat England on their own turf.

It was familiar ground for two members of the victorious XI. Corr, a Dundalk man and the uncle of the members of the band The Corrs, was involved along with Farrell, who nabbed the decisive second goal. Farrell ended up making 421 league appearances for Everton across 11 seasons.

By the mid-1950s, scores of fans were travelling from Ireland to watch Everton on a regular basis. An Irish Press piece in 1956 detailed how the Dublin Branch of Everton's Supporters Federation met to take the B&I Ferry to England to see their club.

A congregation even managed to cram in the 1956 Grand National - when Devon Loch famously collapsed yards from the line - and a home match with Cardiff into the same trip.

November 21, 1970, Anfield: Liverpool 3 Everton 2

The rivals were consistently competing in the 1960s, both winning trophies, and the derbies were box office affairs.

For one cup match in 1967, Goodison Park rapidly sold out, so the authorities at Liverpool took the bold decision to show the match on closed circuit TV at Anfield and sell tickets for it. They packed the place out.

Three years later, the guard was changing in the respective dressing-rooms, and Bill Shankly had spotted Dublin-born, Sheffield-raised winger Steve Heighway.

Less than two months after his debut, he found himself central to the outcome of an epic derby battle. It was scoreless at the interval before Everton burst into a two-goal lead with Joe Royle on target. Heighway's goal instigated the comeback, with debutant John Toshack and Chris Lawler sealing a remarkable triumph.

May 20, 1989, Wembley: Liverpool 3 Everton 2

The 1980s was another decade where the derbies had a big say in the destination of trophies and this was reflected by the fact that they twice met at Wembley for cup finals.

Both culminated in victories for Liverpool and it was the Reds who now had a stronger Irish contingent. Ronnie Whelan's capture in 1979 started it off.

The 1986 FA Cup decider was a meeting of England's top two that led to Liverpool completing the Double. Three years later they met again in a final that will forever be remembered because of its proximity to the Hillsborough Disaster and the show of unity between the two sets of supporters.

Everton had Kevin Sheedy in their ranks, but Liverpool started with four Irish internationals: John Aldridge, Ronnie Whelan, Ray Houghton and a young Steve Staunton. Aldridge, who was affected particularly badly by events at Hillsborough, opened the scoring in a five-goal thriller that was settled by an extra-time brace by Ian Rush. Whelan scaled the steps to lift the trophy.

December 11, 2004, Goodison Park: Everton 1 Liverpool 0

The headline moment of the 200th Merseyside derby was the only goal scored by an Irishman in the fixture in the 21st century. Congratulations if you guessed Lee Carsley.

This was Everton's first derby victory in five years and the mood was euphoric as Carsley's strike moved them second in the table, 12 points clear of their opponents.

David Moyes' charges would end up taking fourth spot ahead of Liverpool, but that achievement was dwarfed by the small matter of what Rafa Benitez's team did in the Champions League.

Carsley's golden moment came just three days after Steven Gerrard's winner against Olympiakos that propelled his side on the road to that fateful night in Istanbul. Everton's fine campaign was overshadowed.

Everton v Liverpool, live, Sky Sports 1, 8.0

Irish Independent

The Left Wing: The 'hell' of World Cup training camp, Ireland's half-back dilemma and All Blacks uncertainty

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport