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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.

Comments

Anonymous 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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