11/03/1936 Belfast Wales 3-2 James Gibb, Alec Stevenson, Norman Kernaghan
Elisha Scott, Billy Cook, Bertie Fulton, Bill Gowdy, Jack Jones, Bobby Browne, Norman Kernaghan, James Gibb, David Martin, Alec Stevenson, Jimmy Kelly
Even though this was a home game, Ireland went into the match very much the underdogs on the back of losing four games on the bounce, with the added disadvantage of missing their star forwards Joe Bambrick (Chelsea) and Peter Doherty (Manchester City) due to club commitments. Wales meanwhile had defeated England at Molineux only a month earlier.
Luckily for the Irish the Welsh forwards missed many easy chances throughout the game although they were able to score two goals in the first half however, Ireland managed to take their chances and score three even without Bambrick and Doherty. Ireland’s Billy Cook (Everton), Bertie Fulton (Belfast Celtic) and Jack Jones (Hibernian) also made some important tackles to keep the Welsh score down.
The Glasgow Herald match report made the comment that “the Welshmen often played delightful football in midfield, and as a team appeared to be better balanced than their opponents. The interchanging of the Welsh players was particularly clever.” Special mention was given to Welsh player Brys Jones the Wolves inside-left “a wonderful schemer” and Ireland’s inside-left Alec Stevenson “whose ball control was frequently dazzling” with “passing beyond reproach”.
The score at half-time as 2-1 to Wales with Wales deserving of their interval lead which should have been more. Wales’ first goal was scored by David Astley on 25 minutes but Ireland equalised through James Gibb’s header. Wales took the lead again with the best goal of the game through Cuthbert Phillips as he scored from 30 yards past the experienced Elisha Scott (Belfast Celtic).
Elisha Scott earned his last and 31st cap for Ireland in this match at the age of 42 years & 200 days old. He had made his debut for Ireland almost 16 years to the day of his final cap on 13th March 1920.
In the second half Ireland surprised the Welsh defence with their eagerness to level the score, continuing to dominate even with 10 men on the field as Jimmy Kelly (Derry City) had left the field for 10 minutes due to injury (there were no substitutions in those days).
Irish debutants James Gibb (Cliftonville) and Norman Kernaghan (Belfast Celtic) were involved in the high tempo from the wings giving the Welsh defence more to think about than the first half had done and both scored on their debuts. Unfortunately for both players their international careers were short. This was Gibb’s one and only full cap even though he did score, however, to soften the blow slightly Gibb was on stand-by for Great Britain’s 1936 Berlin Olympic squad. Kernaghan meanwhile had the skills to play football on the mainland but decided to remain in Northern Ireland, “I didn’t want to go away. I wanted to be here with my family and friends.” Kernaghan went on to earn a furter two caps for Ireland scoring another goal against Scotland in October of that year.
Ironically it was during the period when Kelly was off the field that Ireland equalised through Stevenson. The winning goal was to come later from Kernaghan after a through ball from Kelly.
Due to this defeat Wales could no longer win the Jubilee trophy as Scotland and England would face each other at Wembley to decide the championship. All Scotland needed was a draw while England needed to defeat the Scots to leapfrog them to the title. Because goal difference was ignored England needed to at least draw their game against Scotland to avoid sharing the wooden spoon with Ireland. In the end a few weeks later Scotland drew with England and subsequently won the British Home Championship while Ireland sadly earned the wooden spoon.
* Trivia –
On the day of the match debutant Norman Kernaghan was at his place of employment with the Belfast Newsletter. He was subsequently sent home by his superior James Henderson who informed Norman to “Get away home and rest. You have this big game in the afternoon.” Norman left work for home and then went onto join his Ireland teammates for lunch prior to the match.
Source: Paradise Lost & Found by Padraig Coyle (1999)