19 September 2006

Jimmy Connor

Name: James Connor
Born: 22 September 1877, Downpatrick
Died: 28 November 1918, Downpatrick

Height:
Weight:Position: Centre-Half

Representative Honours: Ireland: 13 Full Caps (1901-1911); Irish League: 11 Caps (1900-1911).
Club Honours: (with Belfast Celtic) Irish League Champion 1899/00; (with Glentoran) Irish League Champion 1904/05, Runner-Up 1903/04; Co. Antrim Shield Winner 1900/01; Charity Cup Runner-Up 1902/03, 1903/04, 1904/05; (with Belfast Celtic) Irish Cup Runner-Up 1905/06; Gold Cup Winner 1911/12; City Cup Winner 1905/06, 1906/07; Co. Antrim Shield Winner 1909/10; Charity Cup Winner 1911/12, Runner-Up 1909/10, 1910/11.

Club Career:

Clubs
Seasons
Signed
Fee
League
FA Cup
Other
Downpatrick Celtic
-
-
-
-
-
Rathkeltair
-
-
-
(Downpatrick)
Belfast Celtic
98/99-99/00
-
-
-
-
-
Glentoran
00/01
May-1900
-
*21/1
*
*
Belfast Celtic
01/02
Jun-1901
-
-
-
-
Glentoran
02/03-04/05
Jun-1902
-
*85/2
*
*
Belfast Celtic
05/06-12/12
May-1905
-
-
-
-
TOTALS
£-
-
-
-
* all games.

Biography:
Downpatrick-man Jimmy Connor began his top-class footballing career with Celtic in the late 1890s (the club wouldn’t officially take the “Belfast” prefix until 1901), and was the corner-stone at centre-half of the club’s first Irish League title success in 1900. He left immediately after that triumph, seeking fame and fortune with the more “professional” Glentoran.

Connor’s performances at the Oval were rapidly recognised with his first major representative honour, as a member of the Irish League team defeated 4-2 by their English counterparts at Solitude in November 1900. His first Ireland cap the following February proved an inauspicious start to a decade long international career, Scotland cruising to an 11-0 victory in Glasgow. The Irish FA’s selectors were obviously none-too-perturbed by the result, and Connor retained his place for the following month’s clash with England – this time a slightly more respectable 0-3 reverse was suffered. On the domestic front, Glentoran finished as runners-up in the Irish League and claimed the Co. Antrim Shield with a 2-1 victory over Cliftonville.

With the “reforming” of Belfast Celtic in 1901 as a Limited Company, the club managed to entice a number of ex-players to the newly built Celtic Park. Connor was one of those convinced that a move back across the city was right for him. It proved an all too brief return, and Connor was back at Glentoran for the 1902/03 campaign. Back at the Oval, he picked up his second Irish League Championship in 1904/05, and played in two Charities Cup final defeats.

In 1904/05 Connor regained his place in the Ireland team after a four year absence. His first game back in the Irish eleven brought the undoubted highlight of his international career, England held 1-1 at Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough. After re-joining Belfast Celtic Connor played in his only Irish Cup Final in 1906, Celtic losing 2-0 to Shelbourne at Dalymount Park. Further winner’s medals did come his way in the form of the Co. Antrim Shield, Charity Cup and Gold Cup.

A character both on and off the field, Connor was famed for walking 22 miles from his Downpatrick home to Belfast for matches. The reasons for this were two-fold, it added to his fitness, and allowed him to spend his travel allowance in the pub! In June 1912 Celtic embarked on a European tour to Bohemia. Connor did his bit for cross-Europe relations, by educating some local students in how English should be spoke – the Downpatrick way.

Jimmy Connor retired in 1913. Five years later in his hometown of Downpatrick he caught influenza and died aged just 41.


Connor's 1905 Irish League winner's medal
Connor's 1905 Irish League winner's medal (reverse)
Connor's 1910 Charities Cup winner's medal
Connor's 1910 Charities Cup winner's medal (reverse)
Connor's 1912  Charities Cup winner's medal
Connor's 1912  Charities Cup winner's medal (reverse)
Unidentified medal believed to have belonged to Connor.
Please get in touch if you can help identify it.
-


Ireland Cap Details:
23-02-1901 Scotland A L 0-11 BC
09-03-1901 England. A L 0- 3 BC
25-02-1905 England. A D 1- 1 BC
18-03-1905 Scotland A L 0- 4 BC
08-04-1905 Wales... H D 2- 2 BC
16-02-1907 England. A L 0- 1 BC
16-03-1907 Scotland A L 0- 3 BC
15-02-1908 England. H L 1- 3 BC
14-03-1908 Scotland H L 0- 5 BC
20-03-1909 Wales... H L 2- 3 BC
28-01-1911 Wales... H L 1- 2 BC
11-02-1911 England. A L 1- 2 BC
18-03-1911 Scotland A L 0- 2 BC

Summary: 13/0. Won 0, Drew 2, Lost 11.


Additions by George Glass.

Medal and Downpatrick Celtic photos courtesy of Joan Magee.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jimmy was a distant relation of mine and i am told that he died of the flu pandemic which was sweeping the world at that time.
this flu killed more people than
WW1. I was also told that there was a book about him. I dont know if this is true as i have not been able to find any information on this.

Joan Magee said...

James Connor.
"A gentlemanly, clean footballer, who knew the art of the game thoroughly and practised it in a manner that will long serve as a model to be followed.”(Source - Irish News, 29th November, 1918).

I would like to correct an error in your article. Belfast Celtic were already touring in Bohemia in May of 1912. During their Bohemian tour of 1912, Belfast Celtic lost to Pardubitz, one goal to three. The Irish News dated 27th of May 1912 wrote that; "Belfast Celtic sustained the first reverse of their Continental tour on Sunday, when they travelled from Prague to Pardubitz, a town situated some 50 miles from the Bohemian capital, on the banks of the Elbe."

I would like to bring some further information to your attention.
Padraig Coyle, in his book "Paradise Lost and Found" comments that James Connor spent his travel allowance on alcohol, though I am unable to find any named source for this information. James Connor is not here to defend himself, but I have been reliably informed by his two living nephews and his niece that their mother Ellen - a sister of James - never recalled that James was "fonder of a drink" than any other man. Indeed they remember being told that James contributed generously to his widowed mother Jane, from his wages, as his father had died of heart disease and bronchitis in 1893, at the relatively young age of 52.

It is a fact that on the Saturday 30th November 1918, the Belfast Celtic Club flag was flown at half-mast as a mark of respect to James Connor, and a lightening ballot was organised in his memory. Some years prior, a benefit match had been played for James, and twelve medals were especially struck on the occasion, eleven being for the winning team and one for the” beneficiaire”. James didn’t accept the twelfth medal at the time, and it was this medal that was balloted, the proceeds being forwarded to his mother Jane. James was buried on Sunday the 1st of December 1918. Among those attending his funeral, The Belfast Celtic Club was represented by Messrs. D McCloskey, J.P.; Austin Donnelly, R. Barr, M. Hamill, W. Parker, Peter O’Hagan, W. J. Donnelly, J.P.; M. J. McCann, J.P.; T.Hanna, J. McSorley, and J. Keenan.

It saddens me that you feel you need to begin your biography with mean conjecture. The Irish News obituary for James called him; "in his time probably the best known as well as the most proficient exponents of Association football in Ireland...James Connor occupied a place unique in the annals of the game in Ireland, and though principally identified with Irish club football, he was recognized throughout England and Scotland as among the half-dozen best all-round players to be met with. It was as a centre half that he made his name, graduating out of Rathkeltair Club Downpatrick, into Belfast Celtic, with which organisation he was associated during the greater part of an unusually long career on the field. He played for Ireland in a number of international games, always with distinction, he was a gentlemanly, clean footballer, who knew the art of the game thoroughly, and practised it in a manner that will long serve as a model to be followed,"(Source - Irish News, 29th November 1918.)

Respectfully yours
Joan Magee
Grand-niece of James Connor

jcd said...

Joan,

I have removed the offending introduction and welcome your research. I admit I was using a single "fact" as a hook and am sorry for any offense caused.

It should be noted that in this project (that I am under-taking as a hobby) I can't necessarily dedicate the time to every player that you have clearly dedicated to a member of your family.

You should be rightly prod that a player and man such as Jimmy was a family member and congratulate you on your work.

Best regards,
Jonny

Anonymous said...

Jimmy Connor was a great uncle of mine and is to this day held in very high regard in the Downpatrick area. Maurice Hayes the Northern Ireland Ombusman knew of Jimmy from the time his family owned Denvers Coaching Inn in Downpatrick, and has told me that Jimmy was fond of a wee drink and did spend his travel money in the pub, but that he was not an alcoholic and did indeed contribute generously to both his friends and family. My grandfather Johnston would have confirmed this. Jimmy I think deserves much greater recognition for his footballing achievements.

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