Saturday 15 December 2018

Shay Gibbons

Sean Ryan

ALTHOUGH he made his name as a soccer player, Shay Gibbons could just as easily have been a star with the Dublin football team. As a 17-year-old, he was on the Dublin senior panel for a League game against Laois. He later captained Parnell's in a Dublin junior final, and was the midfield star of the Parnell's team beaten by St Vincent's in the Dublin senior final of 1950.

Notwithstanding the ban then in force, he had always played soccer, and when he was chosen to play at centre-forward against the Liverpool FA at Goodison Park, Shay decided that, as he had a gift for goal scoring, soccer would be his game. He proceeded to become the most prolific goal scorer in the League of Ireland in the Fifties.

After winning a junior international cap against Scotland, he was persuaded to sign for St Patrick's Athletic, then in the Leinster Senior League, but elected to the League of Ireland in 1951.

Pat's and Gibbons took the League by storm, racing away with the title, thanks in large measure to Shay's 26 goals in the 22 games. The following season, he upstaged the legendary Raich Carter, who was playing for Cork Athletic. Carter's presence attracted the fans, but Gibbons left the biggest impression, scoring five goals in a 6-2 win for Pat's.

The ideal target man, Gibbons not only scored goals, he could take the ball down, shield it or nod it on to a better placed colleague. He was noted for his unselfish play, but his thunderous shot was a real crowd-pleaser and prompted the cry of "flick it to Gibbons" from the fans.

A surprise loss of form cost him his place in the 1954 FAI Cup final against Drumcondra, which Pat's lost 1-0, but Gibbons was back to his best in the following two seasons when Pat's won back-to-back League titles, thanks to his goals, including a club record of 28 in 1954-55.

He was awarded International and inter-League caps, and had the distinction of scoring against the English and Scottish Leagues, although marked by the legendary Billy Wright and George Young respectively.

After short spells with Holyhead Town, Cork Hibernians and Dundalk, Gibbons retired at the early age of 30 to return to his first love, Gaelic football with Parnell's.

In eight action-packed seasons, he had managed to score an incredible 120 League goals and won every domestic honour apart from an FAI Cup medal. Shay Gibbons, born May 19, 1929, died June 10, 2006.

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