12 April 2007

Johnny Leathem

Johnny “Jack the Hack” Leathem was a footballing hero on both sides of the border…

Name: John Leathem
Born: c. 1912, Dromore, Co. Down
Died: December 1999
Height:
Weight:

Position: Centre-Half

Representative Honours: Ireland: 1 Full Cap (1939); Irish League: 1 Cap (1934); League of Ireland: 2 Caps / 1 Goal (1943).
Club Honours: (with Glentoran) Irish Cup Winner 1932/33, 1934/35; (with Belfast Celtic) Irish League Champion 1936/37, 1937/38, 1938/39, 1939/40; Northern Regional “War-Time” League Champion 1940/41; Irish Cup Winner 1936/37, 1937/38, 1940/41; Gold Cup Winner; City Cup Winner; Co. Antrim Shield Winner; (with Dundalk) FAI Cup Winner 1941/42; Inter-City Cup Winner 1941/42; City Cup Winner 1942/43.

Club Career:
Teams
Seasons
Signed
Fee
League
FA Cup
Other
Gilford Crusaders
-
-
-
-
-
-
Glenavon
-
-
-
-
-
-
Glentoran
32/33-35/36
-
-
*111/16
-
-
Belfast Celtic
-
-36
-
-
-
-
Dundalk
41/42-44/45
c/s-41
-
61/ 6
18/0
67/8
TOTALS
-
£-
172/22
18/0
67/8
* all games

Biography:
An extremely versatile player, Johnny Leathem could play anywhere across the half-back line as well as at inside-left – he even played a couple of games for Dundalk as ‘keeper.

Spotted playing with local Junior side Gilford Crusaders in the early-‘thirties, it was Glenavon who pipped Belfast Celtic to Leathem’s signature. He lasted only a short time at Mourneview before joining a Glentoran side regularly shipping goals and desperate for some defensive mettle. Within just a few months of his arrival at the Oval he claimed an Irish Cup winners medal. It took three matches to see off Distillery (1-1, 1-1, 3-1), with Leathem at left-half in the first two games and inside-left in the decider. Two years later he claimed his second winner’s medal in the Blue Riband final, another marathon of matches, all at left-half, were required to see off Larne (0-0, 0-0, 1-0).

In 1936 Leathem signed for Belfast Celtic as Elisha Scott sought to re-invigorate his side. At Paradise he slotted into the centre-half position as five consecutive League titles were claimed, together with three Irish Cups and every other trophy available. In January 1940 Celtic dished out a 13-0 hammering to Glenavon, Peter O’Connor scoring eleven and Charlie McIlroy and Leathem claiming one-a-piece. It was only the emergence of Jack Vernon that forced Leathem out of the centre-half position, and even then he simply returned to the left-half berth. Eventually Scott decided that Leathem was surplus to requirements, and in the summer of 1941 he joined Dundalk.

Immediately popular with all at Dundalk, Leathem proved a very consistent and reliable player, seldom missing a game. In his first season with the Railwaymen he played at centre-half in a 3-1 FAI Cup Final win over Cork United (Dundalk’s first success in that competition) and in the 1-0 Inter-City Cup Final win over Shamrock Rovers. Both Glentoran and Belfast Celtic were dispatched on the way to the Final of the first ever North-South competition.

The 1942/43 season brought another early success, Leathem scoring in an early round hammering of Bray Unknowns as the City Cup was claimed thanks to a 4-2 Final win over Drumcondra. Dundalk also ran close to a League success, finishing runners-up, just a point behind champions, Cork United. Leathem was rewarded with selection for the Inter-League matches against the Northern Regional League for his efforts. In the first match the North won 1-0 at Dalymount Park and in the return fixture at Windsor Park Leathem scored in a 2-2 draw.

Success eluded Dundalk for the remainder of Leathem’s time at Oriel Park, with his appearances as stand-in ‘keeper for the injured Gerry Matier an interesting footnote. Also a useful cricketer, Leathem regularly knocked up centuries for Lurgan CC.

Northern Ireland Cap Details:
15-03-1939 Wales... A L 1-3 BC

Summary: 1/0. Won 0, Drew 0, Lost 1.

2 comments:

Tara said...

John was my Grandad and we were always so proud of his footballing career. He lived and breathed it and talked about his footballing days all his life. I used to get called Young Hack as his nick name was Hack for his style of playing! I was delighted to find this article! Tara

jcd said...

Thank you "Young Hack"!

You sound like a scary player :P

... and don't worry, comments work, I just monitor them to avoid spam.

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