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25 October 2009

Maurice McVeigh

A “clever” player, Maurice McVeigh starred in Glenavon’s most successful ever side, and had it not been for the quality of wingers available to Northern Ireland at the time, would surely have added Full international honours to his Amateur Caps…

Name: Maurice McVeigh
Born: September 1928, Belfast
Died: December 2019
Height: 5.07 st
Weight: 10.12 st
Position: Outside-Left

Representative Honours: Ireland: 12 Amateur Caps (1949-1957); Irish League: 1 Cap (1954).
Club Honours: (with Glenavon) Irish League Champion 1951/52, 1956/57; Irish Cup Winner 1956/57, 1958/59, Runner-Up 1954/55; Gold Cup Winner 1954/55, 1956/57; Ulster Cup Winner 1954/55, 1958/59; City Cup Winner 1954/55, 1955/56.
Awards: Ulster Footballer of the Year 1955.

Club Career:
Teams .. --Seasons-- Signed
Distillery II
Glenavon ............. 1948 (2/0 Europe)

A member of Glenavon’s first ever Irish League title winning side in 1952, Maurice McVeigh has since been described as “one of the supreme wingers of Irish football” by none other than Malcolm Brodie. The 1950s were a golden age for Glenavon. That 1952 title triumph was the first time the Gibson Cup had left Belfast, the Irish Cup, Gold Cup and City Cup would all arrive at Mourneview for the first time as the decade progressed, and McVeigh, with the pace to go past any full-back, was the creative force.

It was McVeigh’s understanding with Jimmy Jones, who had only just returned to football after two years out with the broken leg sustained in the infamous Linfield-Belfast Celtic clash on Boxing Day 1948, which allowed the burley forward to claim 27 goals, as Glenavon scored a total of 67 in 22 games. It was also McVeigh who put in the cross for Jackie Denver to head home the winner against Glentoran that claimed the title, Wilbur Cush claiming the other in a 2-1 victory at the Oval.

Also multi-honoured at representative level, McVeigh played for the Irish League and Ireland at Amateur level on numerous occasions, but with the international eleven featuring the wing talents of Billy Bingham, Peter McParland and Charlie Tully there was little opportunity for him to make the step to the highest level. He did come close however, as he was named in the panel for the visit of Italy for a World Cup Qualifier in 1957. When the match was down-graded to a friendly it was agreed that substitutes could be named, and McVeigh took his place on the bench but he was not called upon.

In 1954/55 Glenavon completed a trophy treble of Gold Cup, Ulster Cup and City Cup, but it was oh-so-close to a quintet! The Irish League title race finished with both Glenavon and Linfield level on 36 points, and as per League rules a play-off test match was required. As so often happens in these situations, the team with inferior goal difference and goals scored came out on top, Linfield triumphed 2-0 to claim the Gibson Cup. Still Glenavon had the Irish Cup final to look forward to – after all they were odds-on favourites to beat intermediate side, Dundela. Disaster struck as the Duns came out all guns blazing, their high-tempo performance made even the multi-talented Glenavon look laboured, and the unbelievable final score: Dundela 3, Glenavon 0.

By way of consolation McVeigh’s performances as Northern Ireland’s outstanding player was rewarded with the Ulster Player of the Year title – undoubtedly, and perhaps surprisingly, it offered little consolation in a season of “what might have been”. Glenavon, under the leadership of Jimmy McAlinden, a former international and FA Cup winner with Portsmouth, bounced back, and after finishing League runners-up in 1956, claimed the double in free-scoring fashion in ’57. The Glenavon side was by now beginning to evolve, Jimmy Jones was still in devastating form leading the line, but Sammy Wilson and Joe Elwood were now challenging for the places on the wing, and McVeigh played at inside-right in the 2-0 Irish Cup Final success over Derry City.

1957/58 saw Glenavon achieve another first, when they became the Irish League’s pioneering entrants into European competition. They didn’t get too far though, Danish side Aarhus knocking them out of the Champions’ Cup in the preliminary round, 3-0 on aggregate. For McVeigh the season also brought a reprieve, he re-asserted his place on at outside-left as Joe Elwood departed for Leyton Orient. As the ‘fifties drew to a close Glenavon continued with their challenge to the Belfast dominance of the Irish League, twice finishing League runners-up and claiming their second Irish Cup success, 2-0 over Ballymena in a replayed final in 1959.

McVeigh’s Glenavon career drew to a close with the decade, but he could look back with pride on his role in what he himself considered “the greatest side in Glenavon history”. A competitive man by nature, he continued bowling into his final years.

McVeigh passed away in December 2019, he was 91.

(Northern) Ireland Amateur Cap Details:
10-12-1949 Scotland..... A W 2-5
04-02-1950 England...... H L 1-3
03-02-1951 England...... A L 3-6
02-02-1952 England...... H L 1-3
12-04-1952 Scotland..... A L 1-2
12-09-1953 England...... H W 2-1
23-01-1954 Wales........ H W 3-2
22-02-1954 Distillery FC A W 5-2 1 goal
10-04-1954 Scotland..... A D 0-0
18-09-1954 England...... A L 0-5
22-01-1955 Wales........ A W 2-1
12-02-1955 Scotland..... H W 2-1
28-09-1957 England...... H L 0-3

Summary: 12/0. Won 5, Drew 1, Lost 6. (1 other appearance)

Irish League Representative Appearance Details:
20-10-1954 Football League A L 2-4

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

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