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Jim Smith; One Of Cavan’s Greatest Ever Football Legends & Cavan Captain in 1933
The story of Jim Smith, the 1920’s and 30’s Cavan all time great footballer, is a gaelic football story, laden with historic achievements and the Killinkere gael, born in 1901 and died in July 1970, was also a noted hurler, who lined out with the Garda club in Dublin and won a county senior hurling championship medal in the capital city in 1925.
From a farming background Jim Smith, despite the passing of many decades since his inter county retirement from playing senior football with Cavan, is still a revered legend in the Breffni county, and now his incorporation in our All Ireland Hall Of Fame Online Gallery of legends, ensures that the profile of Jim will be alive and well from Boston to Melbourne, and around the globe, courtesy of our national and international Irish Heritage Sports website.
Jim’s colourful football career is an easy subject to write on, so glorious were his mighty achievements. He won 2 All Ireland senior football medals and a splendid 13 Ulster senior football titles, and the only major national title to elude the famous Killinkere footballer, was a Railway Cup medal.
In an inter county career that stretched from 1917 to 1937, and also a period of Cavan dominance in Ulster football, Jim Smith played full back, centre back and midfield. He was regarded as a supreme high fielder and at 6’1”; few opponents could wrestle with him in the aerial duels.
A free taker of note, Jim was also renowned as a player to always find a colleague with his kicking and the ferocity of his strikes were known to make bullet holes in several nets. The Killinkere footballer was a real Cavan hero for the fans, and with Jim in their midst, Cavan had many major triumphs. The era of Jim Smith and his team colleagues set a precedent for upcoming generations of Cavan gaels to emulate the pioneers.
In 1920 he was called into the Cavan senior panel after making huge impressions playing for Virginia Blues, where he won a county senior football titles at 18 years of age. He also played with Bailieboro in 1924 and ’25. Also in 1920 Jim witnessed the massacre at Croke Park, when British troops invaded the stadium during a football challenge between Dublin and Tipperary, on a day when Michael Hogan of Grangemockler, Co. Tipperay, was shot dead on the field. Jim played in the curtain raiser with the Erin’s Hope club. The famous Larry Stanley of Kildare described Jim Smith, as the greatest football player of the 1920’s decade, and the Kildare All Time All Star was also a supreme gaelic footballer.
Major silverware for Jim included his 1933 All Ireland senior football medal, when he captained Cavan to a glorious victory over Kerry, who were looking for a 5 in a row clutch of titles.This historic triumph gave Cavan their first ever Sam Maguire success. His second celtic cross medal came in 1935, when Cavan accounted for Donegal and Monaghan in Ulster. Tipperary were conquered in the All Ireland semi final with Jim now playing at centre half back. In the final, Jim lined out at full back against Kildare, who were enjoying a great spell at national level in the 1930’s.
In 1937 Jim was coaxed out of retirement to play Donegal in Ulster and Cavan followed up that victory by accounting for Monaghan in the Ulster final. At Mullingar, in the All Ireland semi final, with Jim playing at full back, a late rally gave victory to the Breffni county. In controversial circumstances thousands of Cavan's radio listeners, believed Kerry had been beaten in the 1937 All Ireland final by one point, but a disallowed score earned the Kingdom a replay, which they duly won.
Jim Smith was crucially injured in the replay with nasty nose and mouth wounds and Breffni fans took offence to the manner of the injuries inflicted. In the historic Tailteann Games of 1924/28 and ‘32, the Cavan giant played in all 3 tournaments.
Gearóid Smith, a son of Jim and resident in Kilmacud, Dublin, published a lifestory on the famous Cavan footballer in 2014 and the editor of the All Ireland Hall Of Fame Online Gallery, is indebted to Gearóid and his daughter, Bróna Murphy, who provided the picture shown here.
Derry JF Doody