Skip to main content

Kevin McGarry

The first ever recipient of the Ulster Player of the Year Award, Dr. Kevin McGarry remained an amateur throughout his playing career…

Name: Dr. J. Kevin McGarry
Born: c. 1925, Belfast
Died: August 1995 (aged 70)
Height: 5.06 ft
Weight: 10.01 st
Position: Inside-Forward

Representative Honours: Ireland: 3 Full Caps / 1 Goal (1950-1951), 15 Amateur Caps / 11 Goals (1948-1955); Irish FA Representative; Irish League: 15 Caps / 12 Goals (1948-1956); Great Britain (1952 Helsinki Olympics).
Club Honours: (with Cliftonville) Co. Antrim Shield Runner-Up 1950/51.
Awards: Ulster Footballer of the Year 1951.

Club Career:
FA Cup
Belfast Celtic
* /170
Sligo Rovers
/  2
2/  0
* all games.

Kevin McGarry played Gaelic football before being convinced to sign amateur forms with Belfast Celtic by Austin Donnelly. He played a few firstteam games at Paradise before signing with Cliftonville. At Solitude he remains a legendary figure, still widely regarded as the club’s greatest ever player. An artist from inside-forward - either left or right - he was also a prolific goalscorer, his hauls of twelve in Inter-League fixtures and eleven in Amateur internationals are both Irish records.

International honours had first come McGarry’s way whilst he completed his medical studies at Queen’s University when selected for an Amateur International against England in February 1948. That match ended in a 5-0 defeat, but the following August he played for an Irish FA representative side against a United States team fresh from a 9-0 hammering by Italy in the London Olympics – the Irish had similar success, triumphing 5-0 with McGarry scoring twice. Four years later McGarry himself would make it to the Olympics, though Great Britain (with McGarry’s name absent from the teamsheet) suffered a humiliating 5-3 Preliminary Round exit at the hands of Luxembourg in Helsinki.

Rewarded for his continued good form on both the domestic and amateur international stage with inclusion in Ireland’s 1950/51 Home Nations squad, McGarry made his Full International debut against Scotland at Hampden Park. His “well-taken goal” from a “stinging shot” in the 43rd minute made the scoreline 1-2, the Scots having scored twice in the opening thirteen minutes, and seemed to have rallied the Irish. In the second half however Willie Steel, putting in a Man of the Match performance, scored four times as the Scots completed a 6-1 rout.

After the Scots match, Ireland manager Peter Doherty retained McGarry in his international team for the next two internationals. He was actually switched to inside-left to fill Doherty’s boots in a 2-1 defeat by Wales at Windsor Park, and in May 1951 he was back at inside-right for a 2-2 draw with France on the first occasion in nearly thirty years that a ‘foreign’ team had played a Full international in Belfast. McGarry rounded-off his season with an appearance in the Co. Antrim Shield final on 16th May, a match that resulted in a 2-2 draw with Ballymena. With 24 goals to his credit, he was named as the inaugural Ulster Footballer of the Year, but the Shield final replay, which was held at the opening of the following campaign, was won 3-0 by the Sky Blues.

McGarry played out his Irish League days with Cliftonville, playing his last match in a red shirt on 25th March 1961 against Coleraine. He scored a then club-record 170 goals*, but as the club regularly sat at the foot of the Irish League, the major trophies his talents so deserved eluded him. There were also brief spells in the League of Ireland during the veteran stages of his career. Though "not as nippy as of year ... he retained his flair for scoring goals" including a hattrick for Sligo Rovers in a 4-2 FAI Cup First Round win over Bray Wanderers. At the age of 36 he played two games for Dundalk, helping to swell the Oriel Park attendance to a season high.

McGarry later coached at Cliftonville and served on the management committee before rising to become club President.

Dundalk Who's Who

Ireland Cap Details:
01-11-1950 Scotland A L 1-6 BC 1 Goal
07-03-1951 Wales... H L 1-2 BC
12-05-1951 France.. H D 2-2 FR

Summary: 3/1. Won 0, Drew 1, Lost 2.

Ireland Amateur Cap Details:
07-02-1948 England. H L 0-5
05-02-1949 England. A W 1-0
16-03-1949 Scotland H D 2-2
10-12-1949 Scotland A W 5-2 3 goals
04-02-1950 England. H L 1-3
03-02-1951 England. A L 3-6 2 goals
19-05-1951 Scotland H L 0-1
02-02-1952 England. H L 1-3 1 goal
12-04-1952 Scotland A L 1-2
31-01-1953 England. A L 1-4
22-01-1955 Wales... A W 2-1 2 goals
12-02-1955 Scotland H W 2-1 2 goals
21-01-1956 Wales... H W 2-1
25-02-1956 Scotland A W 3-1
15-09-1956 England. A L 2-5 1 goal

Summary: 15/11. Won 6, Drew 1, Lost 8.

Irish FA Representative Appearance Details:
11-08-1948 USA Olympic XI H W 5-0 2 Goals
12-09-1951 British Army.. H D 2-2 1 Goal

Summary: 2/3. Won 1, Drew 1, Lost 0.

Irish League Representative Appearance Details:

League of Ireland details courtesy of Jim Murphy.

* Some sources record McGarry's total as 172 goals, however Cliftonville celebrated Joe Gormley as the club's new record goalscorer when he scored his 171st goal vs Crusaders in October 2018.