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Friday 19 August 2016

Jimmy Dunne: A Profile Of A Forgotten Irish Man.

The second article written by Cian Manning (the first of which can be read clicking here) focuses on a forgotten Irish man, who while only playing at Highbury for a brief period, it was so at the beginning of  one of the clubs most successful periods. A forgotten man, much like football before the arrival of the Premier League, nevertheless serves as a reminder of the former special relationship between Arsenal and Ireland which culminated in the 1979 F.A cup winning squad comprising of 6 starting Irish Gooners (7 Irish players would appear in the 1980 final loss to West Ham), from Frank Stapleton to Liam Brady and David O'Leary, managed by Terry Neill, both sides of the border uniting as Arsenal's backbone, unfortunately in the decades since, the decline of Irish players at Arsenal goes hand in hand with the decline of Irish football...


Born in Ringsend, Dublin in 1905 Jimmy Dunne first experienced a revolution of sorts in Ireland before going on to score in twelve consecutive games in the English topflight, a record that Jamie Vardy could not equal even in the media-hyped and globally adored Premier League. From a Republican sympathetic family, Dunne was mistakenly arrested by Irish Free State forces and subsequently rightfully released. In 1923 a spell with Shamrock Rovers led to a move to English Third Division side New Brighton. By 1926 he transferred to Sheffield United for £700 and with Billy Gillespie of Northern Ireland he formed a prolific partnership for the Blades.

Nevertheless, it was not an instant success with Dunne even being transfer listed after playing just 11 games in his first three seasons at the club. As the world economy took a downturn in 1929 Jimmy Dunne’s fortunes and goal-scoring exploits were on the rise. The 1929/30 campaign saw him score thirty-six goals in 39 games, only to better it the following season with forty-one goals in the same amount of appearances.

It was the 1931/32 season in which he achieved the record for consecutive goals in games. He scored over thirty goals in four consecutive seasons for Sheffield United, however the club was in financial trouble. The following year he transferred to Arsenal for £10,000. A league title was achieved in his first season at the club before moving to Southampton after three seasons. Cliff Bastin claimed that Dunne was one of the best centre forwards he played with, but the arrival of Ted Drake in 1934 hastened his departure. Though he achieved silverware with the Gunners is time there was not as goal laden as with Sheffield. In total he scored thirteen goals in thirty-three appearances.

He amassed 170 league goals in English soccer. Furthermore, Jimmy Dunne is second on the list of players from the island of Ireland (both north and south) to have scored in the most goals in the English top flight. He is sandwiched between two Northern Ireland men in Derek Dougan of Wolves and George Best of Manchester United fame.

Also, for all his achievements he has the distinction of having played for both the IFA (Northern Ireland) and the FAI (Republic of Ireland). For the former he played seven games scoring four goals while with the FAI he became their record goal scorer of 13 goals in fifteen matches. A record that was not surpassed till Noel Cantwell reached fourteen in the 1960s. The Cork man and Manchester United FA Cup winner did so playing as a full-back.

However, in 1937 he was offered a return to his first professional team of Shamrock Rovers in Ireland as player/manager. At Milltown his blend of experience and youth saw league titles and cups aplenty and instigated an era of continued success. One of his key signings that was an integral part to the future of Rovers was Paddy Coad. Sadly, he did not live to old age to sit back and recount his successes. In 1949 he died at his home in Sandymount in Dublin. Though the foundations he laid at Rovers were enhanced by Coad who reluctantly succeed Dunne upon his death. The Waterford man would lead his team to three League of Ireland titles and an FAI Cup and he-himself was described as the greatest Irish player to have never played in England.

Perhaps one could assert that Coad succeeded as Rovers manager the greatest Irish player to have played in England. Though his playing days at Arsenal were few and brief he played a part in the ushering of a successful few seasons in the latter of half the 1930s. The club went on to win two more league titles and a second FA Cup. The arrival of Dunne to North London could be described as akin to Denis Bergkamp or Davor Suker to the club in the 1990s. Players with record, ability and reputation that played an important role in driving the Gunners on to further success not just by their playing but also their attitude. With that, it is saddening to note that Dunne is not further recognised in both England and Ireland. Perhaps Jamie Vardy not equaling the record has done more to recognise his feat which has lasted over eighty years.

Written by Cian Manning.

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