03rd May – Today In Our Footballing History

03/05/1961 Athens Greece 1-2 Jimmy McIlroy

Jack McClelland, Dick Keith, Alex Elder, Wilbur Cush, Terry Neill, Bertie Peacock, Billy Bingham, Jimmy McIlroy, Billy McAdams, Derek Dougan, Peter McParland


Malcolm Brodie


This was the second match of a European tour, a qualifier for the World Cup in Chile, with Northern Ireland having been defeated 3-2 by Italy just a few days earlier during a friendly match in Bologna.

Wilbur Cush –

“I had just returned from Leeds United and I had a pretty bad right knee. I was with Portadown and there’s no doubt the injury was getting me down. I couldn’t train and I was putting on a lot of weight. Then out of the blue I got this call from Peter [Doherty]. He didn’t mince his words. ‘What the hell’s going on. I need you for the European tour. Get up off your fat backside and eat less.'”

Cush did indeed join the tour but missed the first game against Italy. Even though Peter Doherty had selected him for the match the selection committee over-ruled him. According to Cush “Peter was ready to quit there and then, but I talked him out of it.”

Cush was a fierce tackler and had a intense dislike of cheats. During the match against the Greeks, Cush clobbered into one of the Greek players. The injury required the stretcher to make its way onto field. Greece scored immediately afterwards and the player who at this stage was on his way to the dressing-room jumped off the stretcher jumping up and down in celebration. Cush commented that he’ll “be waiting for him when we play in Belfast.”

Greece’s second goal was was the outcome of an Irish mix-up at a free kick. Northern Ireland’s goalkeeper Jack McClelland was instructing his wall with instructions to move a couple of yards over, “Let me see it, let me see it” he barked. As the wall shuffled along the Greeks took the free kick into the gap vacated by the Irish wall!

Manager Peter Doherty was irate come the games end. He brought Daily Mirror journalist Jack Milligan onto the pitch and asked him “show me the holes”. “What holes?” commented Jack. “The holes those players of mine disappeared into!” proclaimed Doherty.

Journalist Ronald Rosser –

“The match took place in the ‘Bear Pitt’ in Athens, so-called because the entire playing area was surrounded by an iron cage. As the men in green faced the Greeks they not only had to contend with a pitch full of grit but also the fantastic fervour of the Grecian crowd, some of whom managed to get through the cage to embrace their players when they scored the winning goal.”

Greece Defeat Ulster

Northern Ireland Footballing Greats



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