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  • Sunday August 13th, 2023 @ 16:09

Johnny McGeehan - An Appreciation

By: Dermot Looney

Everyone at St Patrick's Athletic was saddened to hear of the recent passing of Johnny McGeehan, a star player with the club in the late 50s and early 60s.

Johnny is best remembered among Pat's fans for his contributions in the 1959 FAI Cup Final, in which he helped the Saints to our first Cup win.

The pacy centre-forward had a relatively short spell at St Patrick's Athletic, but his contributions were vital. At the age of 24, he signed just weeks before the '59 Cup Final.

Raised in Ballybough, Johnny was coached at a young age by the legendary Paddy Moore, who no doubt imparted his goalscoring knowledge to good effect.

Having previously been with junior club Baldoyle, Johnny played with LOI side Transport, netting an impressive 15 goals in the 1957/58 season, just one off the golden boot position. His goalscoring talents saw him snapped up by Millwall.

But his spell in English football was short-lived. His future wife Molly, then his fiancée, was not keen on the cross-channel move, so they returned home. Unable to line out again for Transport due to a technicality in the rulebook, he was instead loaned to St Pat's for the remainder of the 1958/59 season.

He netted twice in the League in the few remaining games, with his second goal coming against his parent club. But he made his biggest impact in the 1959 FAI Cup Final.

Despite being marked by his friend and work colleague Con Martin, a longstanding Irish international, Johnny scored the equaliser in the first game to bring the game to a replay, and netted the opening goal in the replay to help the Saints to a 2-1 win and one of the most famous days in club history.

See footage of the replay here, including his key early goal.

Johnny scored 17 goals in all competitions in 1959/60 and a remarkable 25 the following season, 1960/61.

He scored the winner in the 1961 FAI Cup quarter final against Shelbourne but lost his place following a knee injury sustained in that game. He was named as a substitute in the Final - the first year subs were permitted - but despite his contribution in the Cup run and across the season, the strict rules of the time meant he was not awarded a Cup winner's medal.

He lined out in the second leg of Pat's first ever European tie in the Cup-Winners Cup against Dunfermline Athletic in September 1961, but returned to Transport later in the 1961/62 season, the final year in the LOI for the 'Busmen.'

He retired soon after following the tragic death of his father, James, at a game in Dalymount, and a combination of knee problems and work commitments.

Johnny was a founding member of the PFAI players' union and retained an interest in football throughout his life. He was part of the club's 80th anniversary celebrations in 2009, and, the following year, he was given a special award by St Patrick's Athletic to mark his service to the club (watch here).

He remained in touch with his former club and, having played in the first and been on the bench for the second Cup win, he was in the stands to see Pat's win their third FAI Cup final in 2014.

Arthur McGahon in the Irish Press nicknamed him "Johnny-on-the-spot all the time," recalling that "he showed that quality so often sadly missing in headline centre-forwards - a bit of originality."

Saints supporters of the era recalled some of his heroics this weekend, including four goals in an 8-3 win over Sligo Rovers and a spectacular diving header in Richmond Park against Shamrock Rovers. Pat's fan Mick Lawlor idolised the centre-forward.

"Johnny McGeehan was my hero. He was like greased lightning. He was short but very fast around the box and would always pop up and get a goal."

Johnny was an accomplished singer and performer and was active in the Howth and Clontarf communities, including Howth Golf Club and Senior Citizens' Centre.

All at St Patrick's Athletic give our condolences to Johnny's children Colette, Niall, Alan and John Jnr, his sisters Hilda and Marie, his brother Jim, his extended family and many friends. Ni bheidh a leitheid aris ann. May he rest in peace.

Johnny will be laid to rest on Monday, August 14th. Click here for funeral details.

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Founded in 1929 the 'Saints' are the current FAI Cup holders and play in the Premier Division of the SSE Airtricity League at Richmond Park, in Inchicore Dublin 8, Ireland.

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