Legendary Derry Celtic, Manchester United and Hibs forward, Barney Donaghey, who fell at the Somme

Barney Donaghey's name inscribed on a plaque at the War Memorial in the Diamond, Derry. DERR3715GS
Barney Donaghey's name inscribed on a plaque at the War Memorial in the Diamond, Derry. DERR3715GS

Barney Donaghey was born on December 23, 1882.

He was the husband of Sarah, who resided at both 106, St Columb’s Wells, and 1, Fulton Place, Derry.

His name is recorded on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, Somme, France, and commemorated on the Diamond War Memorial.

Barney was a well-known and popular footballer, having played for Derry Celtic, Belfast Celtic, Glentoran, Hibernian, Manchester United, Burnley, and other teams.

Records indicate that the appearance against Scotland on August 9, 1902 at the Balmoral Showgrounds, was the only time he played for Ireland. This game was only recently declared an official international game by FIFA. At the time no caps were awarded for it. Bernard Donaghey at the time was playing with Belfast Celtic.

He also made two appearances for the Irish League representative side. He played against the Scottish League in a 3-0 defeat on 15th February 1902 in Dundee, while registered with Derry Celtic, and against the English League in a 4-0 defeat on 14th October 1905 in Manchester, again as a Derry Celtic player.

Barney was previously wounded in the head by shrapnel, and spent time recovering in a hospital at Tanta, Egypt. On that occasion he wrote a letter home saying that he was on his way to recovery, and added ‘The other four solders that were beside me were killed. It was an awful sight. I am sure it was the prayers that saved me.’

In a 1935 edition of the Derry Standard, a column recounting the exploits of Derry City Football Club contained an article about a ‘Derry’s Most entertaining Player’. The article recalled the player Jimmy Crozier and asked if he was the club’s most exciting player ever.

It read: “Jimmy Crozier. They called him ‘Barney’ after the one and only Barney Donaghey-and the Derry football public could not pay any player a greater compliment.”

His records show that he was born at “Templemore, enlisted in Derry, and was killed in action in France on July 1, 1916.”

Private Donaghey’s name is recorded on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing at the Somme. Donaghey was listed as the husband of Sarah Donaghey of 106, St Columb’s Well’s, in the heart of the Bogside.

“He was killed on the first day of the Somme and this is usually associated with the Ulster Protestant community, yet people seem to forget that Catholics like Barney Donaghey were killed that day too,” Trevor Temple said.

Fascinatingly, the sacrifice of those killed in World War I, often referred to as a wasted generation, is made more poignant by the fact Bernard Donaghey was a first class footballer.

Having played for Derry Celtic and Belfast Celtic as well as Ireland, Donaghey also played cross-channel for high profile teams such as Hibernian and Burnley.

However, from 1905-1906 Donaghey played for the first ever side that took the field known as Manchester United. It was in this season that under their previous name, Newton Heath, that United won promotion from the Second to the First Division.

Trevor Temple said: “It is strange to think that a man from the city helped Manchester United into the top division and they have now become the biggest club in the world.”

Army records show that Barney Donaghey was previously wounded in the head by shrapnel and spent time recovering in a Egyptian hospital. On that occasion he wrote a letter home saying he was on the road to recovery and added: “The other four soldiers that were beside me were killed. It was an awful sight. I am sure it was the prayers that saved me.”