19/01/1914 Wrexham Wales 2-1 Billy Gillespie (2)
Fred McKee, Bill McConnell, Alex Craig, Val Harris, Pat O’Connell, David Rollo, Edward Seymour, Sam Young, Billy Gillespie, Billy Lacey, Louis Bookman
The year 1914 has been written into history within the annuals of the Irish Football Association. That year was the first time that Ireland had won the British Home Championship tournament outright after victories over Wales, England and a draw to Scotland.
It was in the first match of the tournament against Wales at the Racecourse Ground, Wrexham in which Ireland took the first steps towards being crowned champions. A shame that only 5,000 supporters turned up to watch.
In the previous tournament Ireland had defeated England for the first time in their history but lost to both Wales and Scotland. However, the seeds were sewn for the establishment of the best ever Irish side to take to a football pitch since the IFA’s founding in 1880. Star players such as Sheffield United’s Billy Gillespie, Liverpool’s Billy Lacey and Everton’s Val Harris brought a sense of professionalism to the Irish side for the first time. Ireland’s record against the Welsh was not great having only won once in the past five meetings between the sides. The Welsh side had the majority of their players playing their trade in England so went into the match as slight favourites.
Ireland started on the attack with Sam Young (Linfield) bringing out a save by Welsh goalkeeper Edward Peers (Wolverhampton Wanderers). Wales hit back after good work on the left-wing by Edward Vizard (Bolton Wanderers), Billy Mederith (Manchester United) crossed but the header by Evan Jones (Bolton Wanderers) went over the crossbar.
Wales soon hit the underside of the crossbar from a shot by Lloyd Davies (Northampton) and came out to Evan Jones to head towards goal. With Irish goalkeeper Fred McKee (Belfast Celtic) beaten Alex Craig (Greenock Morton) managed to kick it away from danger. Wales were showing the greater attacking presence and they hit the woodwork once more when a Mederith shot struck the bar.
Ireland who were riding their luck for the first ten minute period were able to mount an attack themselves through Billy Gillespie who scored after 11 minutes.
Wales restarted on the offensive. Vizard went on another fine run and crossed for Mederith but the Welsh forward misjudged the flight of the ball and Craig was able to clear.
Val Harris twisted his ankle and had to leave the field leaving Ireland with only 10 men, but the team coped well and had the majority of the territory. Wales did have the best chance to score before half-time when Evan Jones only had to place the ball into the open goal but kicked wildly over the bar to the amazement of the crowd.
The half-time score read Wales 0 – 1 Ireland
Harris failed to return for the second half and because substitutions were not permitted in these early days of association football, Ireland would have to play out the remainder of the game with only 10 players.
Irish defenders Alex Craig and Bill McConnell (Bohemians) were kept busy due to Harris’ absence but the shooting from the Welsh forward line was wayward with Vizard guilty on one occasion shooting into the side netting.
Wales as was to be expected with the extra man kept possession and were on the offensive for the majority of the second half, but they could not turn any of the stats into goals. Ireland played on the counter-attack and managed to score their second goal through Gillespie’s shot after a Louis Bookman (Bradford City) cross.
Wales’ pressure on the Irish team was finally rewarded but not through open play. A penalty was awarded after Vizard was brought down in the area and Evan Jones converted it on 60 minutes.
Wales however, could not obtain an equalizing goal as the Irish defence held firm to the increased Welsh pressure. The whistle was blown to end the match and the luck of the Irish was seen at first hand by the spectators.
The final result was Wales 1 – 2 Ireland.
* Trivia –
In this British Championship match Irish outside left Louis James O. Bookman from Bradford City AFC made his debut for the national team. He was born on 10th June 1890 in Lithuania as Louis James O. Buchalter. His father, a Jewish emigrant, fled to Dolphin‘s Barn (Dublin), where he settled with his family and changed his name to Bookman. Louis James was also an international Irish cricketer. He died on 8th June 1943.