Saturday September 7th will be a red letter day at Rabs Park Kerrykeel as football dignitaries from home and abroad will gather in the Donegal village to recognise one of Irelands and Sheffield Uniteds greatest ever players, Billy Gillespie.
Born in Kerrykeel in 1891, Gillespie went on to become the first Irish player to captain a FA Cup winning side when Sheffield United beat Cardiff City in 1925. His legendary status remains around Bramell Lane to this day and two representatives from Sheffield United will be traveling over to Donegal for the unveiling this weekend. Club historian John Garrett and the Blades vice president Ian Cameron are delighted to be involved and will have footage of the former Blades captain in action which is sure to interest all this Saturday.
His Ireland career was equally impressive. He was instrumental in creating Irish footballing history when he scored two goals on his international debut against England in 1913, as Ireland defeated England for the very first time. He repeated the feat a year later, notching another goal against the English as the Irish destroyed the home side at Ayresome Park Middlesbrough, the boys in green running out 3-0 winners. He would go on to win 25 international caps and in a unique gesture, both football Irish football associations will be sending representatives this weekend. Jim McConnell, the chairman of the FAI’s Domestic Committee will represent the FAI and the vice-chairman of the IFA, Jim Wade, will represent the Northern Ireland body.
When his illustrious playing career came to a close the Donegal man returned to the North West to become the manager of Derry City. Required to take a red and white team strip with him as part of the deal, the colours would be adapted by the Brandywell club, the candy-stripes we see them wear to this day. Derry City and the club from where he started his journey to the UK, Institute FC, will be in attendance. Sean and Andrew Cassidy, both Derry City directors and Dean McNutt, the Institute FC PRO will be in attendance.
The Ulster Senior League, Donegal League, Ulster FA and as a host of local clubs, along with other sports groups in the locality will join the celebrations this Saturday. A hearty Donegal welcome to our esteemed visitors will be echoed by Seamus Neely, Donegal County Council Manager and Ian McGarvey, Mayor of Donegal.
The unveiling of the plaque itself will be performed by Jane Bull, Billy Gillespies grand-daughter, who hails from Bexley in Kent. The great man lived with Jane in his latter years and Jane along with her son Andy are excited about their first visit to her famous granddads birthplace in Kerrykeel. She is sure to get a warm welcome from the locals as tales of Billy Gillespies footballing exploits gets told around the county this coming weekend.