Dónal Leahy: 1938..2015
Induction Category: Soccer
Times Past: Cork & League of Ireland Soccer Legend
Evergreen Utd; Cork Celtic; Limerick & Ireland
One of League of Ireland's greatest Centre Forwards in 1950's/60's
On the last day of 2015 a former Cork soccer icon went to his heavenly reward and during his career he lit up many a dark afternoon with his dashing style of power and play. That player left a lasting impression on thousands of Cork schoolboys who travelled to the old fortress of Turners Cross Stadium in the mid 1950’s and early 1960’s to watch Evergreen United and Cork Celtic of Cork fame, play in the old League Of Ireland. Leaving the ground we all wanted to become Dónie Leahy’s and I have little doubt the bustling Dónie was responsible for many young boys taking up soccer rather than the G.A.A. codes of hurling and football.
Only a minority of players of the calibre of Dónal Leahy stood the test of time when they finally hung up their boots, but Dónie’s relationship with the sporting public of Cork never ceased in admiration many decades after his retirement. His sad passing on 31st December 2015, brought back glorious memories of the famed orange jersey of Evergreen United, and the sight of Dónie bearing down on the opponets goal, always raised the rafters at Turners Cross. He was a spectators player who ignited the fans and many of the Evergreen players he lined out with also ,became household names in Irish soccer circles in the mid 20th century.
In our All Ireland Hall Of Fame Online Gallery we focus on Golden Memories and strive to preserve and promote those Golden Memories without a closure date on any of our tributes and profiles. Readers and browsers of our website around the globe now have an open door 365 days of the year to remember one of Ireland’s greatest ever centre forwards in the domestic game of soccer in Ireland.
Dónal Leahy came from Cork’s northside suburbs, and growing up he would have listened to the folklore tales of the master of hurling, Christy Ring, a Cloyneman, who played with the famed Glen Rovers hurling club of Cork. The club was the heart and soul of all northside sports fans and it is a wonderful tribute to Dónal’s memory, that we can speak about him as fondly as The Ringer.
As a centre forward in League Of Ireland football he was a “Marked Man” - one that required special attention from opposing centre halves and the rough and tumble was all around the Corkman. When Evergreen United, like so many Cork predecessors, went out of League Of Ireland football in 1959, a new team emerged to pick up the shattered pieces, and that famed club was Cork Celtic. Dónie’s association with the new club was one of the main foundation stones to relaunch a second League Of Ireland club in Cork City. Cork Celtic as a football club also dropped out of League Of Ireland football in 1979.
All sports careers mostly commence in local neighbourhood clubs and Dónal Leahy’s infancy in football began with city clubs, North End and Dunbar Celtic. The road to stardom included winning a 1956 Munster Minor Cup medal with North End. At youths level for Ireland the Irish selectors came calling for his services and soon after his international appearances, English clubs became aware that a brave No.9 from Cork was worth scouting. Cross channel football did not inspire Dónie, and so began his Evergreen United career as a wing half. It was Irish international and Evergreen manager, Tommy Moroney, who spotted the attacking instincts of Dónie and converted him up front.
His first major assignment for his new League Of Ireland club was the mighty Shamrock Rovers and he scored the first of his 162 league goals on his maiden introduction at Milltown in 1957. From his consistently good performances with Cork Celtic, international Inter-League football beckoned and the mighty Cork striker won 17 caps playing against the “home” nations and Italy and again he scored a total of 7 goals.
In the period 1957 – 1969 Dónie Leahy made 257 appearances and scored a mighty 158 goals. He played with Limerick in 1969/70 and bagged 4 goals. Giants of soccer are sources of inspiration for young emerging footballers with ambitions to play at the top grade, and the story of Cork soccer legend, Dónie Leahy, is a story of football romance that has endured for over 60 years.
Cork’s soccer fans acknowledge one of their own and may the great No.9 now rests in heavenly peace.
Thanks for the wonderful memories.
Compiled by Derry JF Doody