26 November 2006

Jimmy Ferris

Mercurial inside-forward Jimmy Ferris lit-up Belfast Celtic during the tough post-Great War period, and also shone for Ireland...

Name: James Ferris
Born: 28 November 1894, Belfast
Died: late 1932, Belfast
Position: Inside-Forward/Winger

Representative Honours: Ireland: 6 Full Caps/1 Goal (1919-1928); Irish League: 6 Caps (1919-1927).
Club Honours: (with Distillery) Co. Antrim Shield Winner 1914/15, Runner-Up 1915/16; Gold Cup Runner-Up 1915/16; Belfast Charities Cup Winner 1915/16; (with Belfast Celtic) Irish League Champion 1925/26, 1926/27, 1927/28, 1928/29; Belfast & District "War-Time" League Champion 1918/19; Irish Cup Winner 1917/18, 1925/26; City Cup Winner 1925/26, 1927/28, 1929/30.

Club Career:
FA Cup
* 73/13
Belfast Celtic
33/ 8
Preston North End
2/ ?
(Southern League)
Belfast Celtic

Jimmy Ferris began his senior footballing career with Distillery during the Great War, making his debut in January 1915. In his first season he won a Co. Antrim Shield winner's medal, and the following season he scored the only goal of the Charities Cup Final against Linfield. Signed by Belfast Celtic in 1917, he went on to even greater honours, helping take the Irish Cup to Paradise for the first time in his first season, and claiming the League title the following year.

At Paradise, Ferris also claimed his first major representative honours, Ireland including him in the International Championship match against England in October 1919. After England had taken a first minute lead at Windsor Park, Ferris scored a 70th minute equaliser in what was their first post-War meeting. The following month he represented the Irish League for the first time, in a 2-2 draw against the Football League at Anfield.

Ferris' goal in a 1-1 draw at Glenavon on 15 May 1920 was to be the last scored by Belfast Celtic in senior football for four years, as the club resigned from the Irish League in protest at their percieved harsh treatment by the football authorities. Their star players were scattered to the four winds, and Ferris signed for Chelsea that September. His reputation had preceded him, but stories of the play that had been exciting Irish League crowds for years seemed to weigh heavy, and Ferris never settled in London. He did win two further caps, taking his total to four, while at Stamford Bridge, before signing for Preston North End in March 1922.

At Deepdale Ferris was only marginally more settled than at the Bridge, and he lasted a little over two seasons. By the start of the 1924/25 season he had dropped down to the Southern League (Welsh Section) where he played two games for Pontypridd before returning to Belfast. Celtic welcomed him back with open arms in October 1924, and he was soon back on the trophy trail - winning further Irish League and Irish Cup titles - and back in the Ireland and Irish League teams.

Described as "the neatest and daintiest footballer in the city" and a "brilliant schemer who makes golden opportunities for his partners" by the Irish News in 1925, Ferris was also a very 'clever' player. In the 1926 Irish Cup Final against Linfield, Celtic forward Sammy Curran was seeing little of the ball due to the close attentions of the Blues' centre-half Barney Moorhead. Ferris is reported to have siddled up to Moorhead, hitting him a "fearful kick". Moorhead then went after Ferris for the rest of the game seeking revenge, and leaving Curran free to score all three goals in a 3-2 win.

February 1928 saw Ferris win his final caps, and at last he featured in a winning side, against Scotland at Firhill Park, Glasgow. Once again it was Sammy Curran he benefited from Ferris' effective play from inside-left. Diagnosed with a heart condition in 1930, Ferris was forced to hang up his boots. He remained at Celtic Park in a scouting capacity, and is widely credited as bringing Davy 'Boy' Martin to the club.

Jimmy Ferris died in 1932, aged just 37. He never had a chance to see his son, Ray, follow in his footsteps as an Ireland international.

Ireland Cap Details:
25/10/1919 England. H D 1-1 BC 1 Goal
14/02/1920 Wales... H D 2-2 BC
23/10/1920 England. A L 0-2 BC
26/02/1921 Scotland H L 0-2 BC
21/02/1928 France.. A L 0-4 FR
25/02/1928 Scotland A W 1-0 BC

Summary: 6/1. Won 1, Drew 2, Lost 3.

Picture supplied by Red Warrior from the ILS Forum. Club career transfer records by Martin O'Connor.

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