12/03/1887 Belfast Wales 4-1 Olphert Stanfield, Fred Browne, John Peden, Joe Sherrard
Shaw Gillespie, Fred Browne, James Watson, Joe Sherrard, Archie Rosbotham, Oliver Devine, Robert Moore, Sam Baxter, Johnny Gibb, Olphert Stanfield, John Peden
Since the Irish Football Association was founded in 1880 Ireland had yet to win any senior international games prior to this match with Wales. This was the sixth meeting between the two sides with the Welsh having the better record winning four matches with one draw. Wales went into the game making changes to their personnel at the last moment, which according to The Glasgow Herald match report “may account for their defeat.”
There were bright blue skies albeit the air was cold at the Cliftonville Cricket Ground in Belfast. Wales having won the toss decided to play with the sun at their back thus Ireland had to attack the Pavilion End with the sun in their eyes.
This perceived advantage proved to be futile as the Irish played most of the football for the first 5 minutes within the Welsh half, with two wide shots at goal from Fred Browne (Cliftonville). The few brief attempts by Wales to penetrate the Irish half were dealt with by defenders James Watson (Ulster) and Robert Moore (Ulster).
Ireland opened the scoring after 15 minutes of play when James Watson hit a long ball into the Welsh half where Fred Browne picked it up, passed to Olphert Stanfield (Distillery) who scored to the great excitement of the home crowd.
The Irish goal seemed to awake the Welsh who made an instant attack into the Irish half from the restart but the play was broken down by Oliver Devine (Limavady) and converted into another Irish attack by Stanfield and Browne.
Ireland kept up their dominance and soon scored a second goal via Johnny Gibb (Wellington Park) but it was immediately ruled out for offside. Again similar to Ireland’s first goal, the Welsh appeared to be galvanised by nearly going 2-0 down and immediately attacked the Irish half bring out a save from Ireland’s goalkeeper and captain Shaw Gillespie (Hertford). Similarly as previously happened Ireland soon took a strong hold of the ball once more and a subsequently scored via Fred Browne who had made a good run down the centre and shot the ball past the Welsh goalkeeper Roberts (Wrexham Olympic). Ireland went into the half-time break 2-0.
On the restart Wales began on the offensive with the Irish defence conceding a corner-kick. From the subsequent corner Henry Sabine (Coventry) scored to put Wales back into the game.
Ireland were not to be deterred and came back strongly scoring a third goal and then having another disallowed for off-side in quick succession. The goal which counted came after 58 minutes with John Peden (Linfield) scoring.
The game petered out until the final 10 minutes as both sides appeared to accept the result, when Peden brought the ‘leather’ up towards the Welsh goal and subsequently passed to the outside-right Joe Sherrard (Limavady) who headed the ball into the net.
Wales did have another opportunity to score when Sabine ran down the Welsh right-wing to earn a corner. The corner came to nothing though as Ireland cleared their lines. Ireland meanwhile also had an opportunity to increase their lead when Gibb went on a splendid run and would have scored if it wasn’t for Welsh captain Henry Edwards (Wrexham Olympic) getting in a last minute tackle.
The match finished Ireland 4–1 to Ireland who secured their first ever senior international victory and their first against Wales in six attempts
On March 12, 1887, Ireland won their first ever international victory when they beat Wales 4:1 in Belfast. This was their 16th international, drawing 1 and loosing 14 of their first 16 matches. They had a record of 11 goals scored and 96 conceeded!
Robert Roberts kept goal for Wales, although his first full “A” international he had played in defence, which was the position he was really suited for. Alexander Hunter (1862-16.12.1899), secretary of the Football Association of Wales (FAW), played at centre back when Wales were short-handed. Welsh inside left George Griffiths (born on 11.4.1865, played for Chirk AAA), who served with the Royal Army Service Corps, was fighting in France during World War I when he suffered gas poisoning, of which he died 18 months later at the age of 53, on July 7, 1918.
Goalkeeper Shaw Gillespie became Ireland’s youngest ever captain at 19 years and 48 days (a record taken by Olphie Stanfield the following year) in his final international match, and notably the only time he finished on a winning side for Ireland.
The Ireland team that faced Wales contained all Northern based players from Belfast and it’s surrounding areas. Clubs such as Cliftonville, Ulster, Limavady and Linfield were represented but none from Dublin. It was noted in that ‘selection of the Irish team was open to considerations other than talent’ (Pastime VIII, No. 205, 27 Apr 1887, p272). It was also suggested that ‘a players club or his place of residence affected his chance of international selection’ (Ireland’s Saturday Night 26 Nov 1898 and 21 May 1904). In their defense the Irish Football Association suggested that the team was ‘built up from a gate point of view’ i.e. Belfast players selected for Belfast matches and Dublin players selected for games held in the Dublin to maximize the gate (Ireland’s Saturday Night 19 Mar 1904 and 02 Apr 1904).