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16 August 2008

Billy McWha

"Very fast forward; unselfish in passing" - Irish Football Annual 1880

Name: William B.R. McWha*
Born: c.1860
Died: 1909, India

Position: Forward

Representative Honours: Ireland: 7 Full Caps / 1 Goal (1882-1885).
Club Honours: (with Cliftonville) Irish Cup Winner 1882/83; Charity Cup Winner 1883/84, Runner-up 1884/85.

Club Career:
FA Cup
Albion Rugby FC

Billy McWha, son of James, was educated at Methodist College, Belfast, along with another future International footballer, John Sinclair. Initially a wing-forward at rugby with Albion RFC, McWha took up football with Knock FC during 1879/80 season, playing as one of two-right wingers in the original 2 backs – 2 half-backs – 2 right-wing – 2 centres and 2 left-wing forwards formation.

At Knock most of McWha’s matches were in friendlies apart from those in the Irish Cup. In 1881 he took part in an 11-0 cup win over Distillery, before losing out to Cliftonville 1-2 in a semi-final replay after an initial 2-2 draw. 1881/82 saw him score twice in the 4-0 cup win over Malone, only to lose again to Cliftonville, 2-0 in the second round. He also gained his first two caps that season, playing in the right wing position.

McWha moved to Cliftonville for the 1882/83 season. He at last tasted success n the Irish Cup, scoring twice in the 5-0 Final win over Ulster. Shortly thereafter this he moved to London to gain qualifications in medical administration**.

Back in Belfast for the end of 1883/84 season, McWha "kicked the ball between the posts" for his only goal for Ireland against Scotland – a last minute consolation in an 8-1 defeat. That was the only goal the Irish team scored in the first ever British Championship tournament. He played at centre-forward for the first time in this match. He then played at left forward as he gained a Charity Cup winner’s medal with Cliftonville in a 2-0 win over Distillery.

1884/85 saw McWha’s footballing career draw to a close with two further International caps, the last one being against Wales in April 1885, when he played at left-half in Ireland’s first use of the three half-back formation. He finished the season in a 1-0 defeat to Oldpark in the Charity Cup Final, again appearing at left-half.

McWha continued with his medical duties before moving to Scotland. On the 14th October 1908 he set sail from Liverpool to Calcutta, India on the “City of Paris” to take up duties there. A few months later it was reported that he had tragically been drowned while out duck shooting.

Ireland Cap Details:
18-02-1882 England. H L 0-13 FR
25-02-1882 Wales... A L 1- 7 FR
24-02-1883 England. A L 0- 7 FR
17-03-1883 Wales... H D 1- 1 FR
23-02-1884 England. H L 1- 8 BC 1 Goal
28-02-1885 England. A L 0- 4 BC
11-04-1885 Wales... H L 2- 8 BC

Summary: 7/1. Won 0, Drew 1, Lost 6.

* Possibly William Barrie Ritchie McWha.
** McWha was previously thought to have been a medical doctor, however British Medical Council records confirm that this was not so.

By George Glass

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