Friday 19 January 2018

Johnny Matthews

A soccer success on both sides of the Border, he was also talented in dealing with club directors writes Sean Ryan

JOHNNY Matthews, who died on October 6, was a prominent footballer in the Forties and Fifties in both the League of Ireland and the Irish League.

He began his career with Brideville just before World War II, before moving to St James's Gate, where he initially played as an inside-forward. He was top scorer in the 1941-42 season, before moving back to left-half.

In 1944, he signed for Dundalk and enjoyed five excellent seasons there, culminating in 1949, when he captained the Lilywhites to a shock 3-0 FAI cup-final victory over the red-hot favourites Shelbourne.

Matthews had spent the morning of the game supervising the installation of air conditioning in Urney's factory in Tallaght, Dublin.

On arrival in the dressing-room, he was met with a players' mutiny.

The players had seen the size of the crowd and they wanted an increase in their bonus from £8 to £10.

As captain, Johnny was delegated to tell the directors: "No increase, no play."

"I went in to the directors," he recalled, "and, with extreme reluctance, they gave in. They said it was costing them money being in the cup final."

Matthews, who was captain of the League of Ireland representative team and had played six times for the League, was surprisingly let go by Dundalk at the end of the season.

He always believed that this was due to his refusal to sign for West Ham United, in a deal that the club had arranged for a then-record fee of £9,000.

"Sam Prole wasn't too pleased, but I had just moved into a new house and didn't consider football a secure livelihood," recalled Matthews.

"Three weeks later, West Ham signed Frank O'Farrell from Cork United."

O'Farrell went on to manage Manchester United.

Matthews was then snapped up by Irish League side Ards and became a regular on the Irish League representative side, playing 13 times, many as captain, including a 3-0 thrashing of the League of Ireland in Dalymount in April, 1953.

Ards switched Matthews to centre-back and sold him for an Irish League record of £1,750 to Glenavon in Co Armagh. History was made when it became the first provincial club to win the League in 1951-52.

He returned to the League of Ireland in 1954 with Transport, before retiring.

Christened Nicholas, but known as Johnny, he was pre-deceased by Anne, his wife of 54 years, and is survived by his children Margaret, Alicia, Dolores, Mary, Nicholas and John and his sisters Elizabeth Shields and Peg Murray.

Sunday Independent

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