Con Martin: Highly versatile Irish footballer

 

Con Martin was a leviathan of Irish football in the middle years of the 20th century, enjoying the type of colourful career usually confined to the pages of old-fashioned schoolboy comics.

Remarkably versatile, he played internationally on both sides of the border, usually as a central defender, sometimes in goal, and was also an occasional marksman at the other end of the pitch, hitting the target six times for the Republic.

His most revered strike came in the 2-0 victory over England at Goodison Park in 1949, the first time the hosts had tasted defeat to a non-UK team on their own soil, when he opened the scoring with a ferocious blast from the penalty spot. At club level, after shining in his homeland he put in a spell with Leeds United before eight productive years with Aston Villa from 1948 to 1956. He also founded something of a footballing dynasty, with two sons, Mick and Con Jnr, and a grandson, Owen Garvan, playing the game professionally.

Martin's all-round sporting prowess was demonstrated further by his teenage achievements as a Gaelic footballer, which peaked with a superb display for Dublin as they beat Carlow to win the Leinster championship in November 1941. However, simultaneously with his exploits at the Gaelic code, the enterprising Martin had started playing football for the Dublin club Drumcondra – and when this was discovered by the Gaels, controversy broke. They had forbidden their members to indulge in "foreign" sports, and so banned him from their club and withheld his Leinster medal. They finally handed him his hard-earned gong in 1971.

Not that Martin was cowed, going on to thrive with the Drums, filling most defensive roles and helping them to win the FA of Ireland Cup in 1946, before heading north to join the Belfast club Glentoran that year. Even that wasn't straightforward; the Glens had to buy him out of the Irish Air Corps after he had impressed for the League of Ireland against the Ulster equivalent.

Clearly, though, Martin's talent was worthy of a wider stage, and in January 1947 – having recently commenced international service with both Irish nations, courtesy of the lenient rules in force – he was sold to Leeds United for £8,000. He had spurned the opportunity to join Manchester United because they wanted him as a goalkeeper while he favoured an outfield berth, even though part of his Republic of Ireland debut against Portugal had been spent between the posts after the chosen keeper, Ned Courtney, had been hurt.

Martin offered a powerful physical presence, fierce determination and was skilful with both feet, and Leeds – with whom he suffered relegation to the Second Division in his first English spring – employed him as full-back, wing-half and central defender before selling him reluctantly to Aston Villa for £10,000 in October 1948. The Irishman flourished with the Midlanders, for whom he made more than 200 senior appearances, mostly at centre-half; but when keeper Joe Rutherford was injured in August 1951, manager George Martin (no relation) prevailed on his namesake to take up the gloves for most of that season.

He had observed the rangy Martin excelling as a net-minder in casual kickabouts, and also catching everything that came his way in a cricket match, and he was not disappointed, as Martin helped Villa finish sixth in the top flight. Thereafter, though, he reverted to centre-half until he re-crossed the Irish Sea in July 1956 to become player-manager of Waterford. Later, he took a similar role with Dundalk, before managing Shelbourne and becoming assistant manager of Cork Hibernians.

Martin's international career encompassed six caps for the Ulster-based Ireland, which did not become Northern Ireland for football purposes until 1954, and 30 for the Republic, for whom he scored six goals. Highlights included a brilliant performance in goal during a shock 1-0 win over Spain in Madrid in 1946, and two strikes as a centre-forward in a World Cup qualifier victory over Finland in 1949.

Martin revelled in the success of his son Mick, who served Manchester United, West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United as well as collecting 51 Republic caps, Con Jnr, who played for several Irish clubs, and grandson Owen Garvan, an Irish under-21 international now with Crystal Palace.

Ivan Ponting

Cornelius Joseph Martin, footballer and manager: born Rush, County Dublin, 20 March 1923; played for Drumcondra 1941-46, Glentoran 1946-47, Leeds United 1947-48, Aston Villa 1948-56, Waterford 1956-59, Dundalk 1959-60; capped six times by Ireland 1946-50, 30 times by the Republic of Ireland 1946-56; managed Dundalk 1959-60, Shelbourne 1965; married (four sons, three daughters); died 24 February 2013.

News
In 2006, Pluto was reclassified as a 'dwarf planet'
scienceBut will it be reinstated?
News
Jennifer Lawrence at the Vanity Fair Academy Awards party in February 2014
people12 undisclosed female victims are seeking $100m in damages
Arts and Entertainment
Adam Levine plays a butcher who obsessively stalks a woman in Maroon 5's 'Animals' music video
music'Animals' video 'promotes sexual violence against women'
News
people Biographer says cinema’s enduring sex symbol led a secret troubled life
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
voicesI like surprises - that's why I'm bringing them back to politics, writes Nigel Farage
News
Bear and hare woodland scene from John Lewis Christmas advert
newsRetailer breaks with tradition, selling real festive fir trees online for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Anthony Horowitz will write the next 007 novel
booksAnthony Horowitz to write new instalment in spy series for 2015
News
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
people
News
people

Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again

Sport
Kicking on: Nathaniel Clyne is relishing the challenge of the Premier League after moving from Crystal Palace
footballSurprises include a first ever call-up for one Southampton star
Voices
4 May 2013: The sun rises over Tower Bridge in London. Temperatures across the UK could be higher than several European holiday destinations by Monday, including parts of Italy and France (Andy Hepburn/PA)
voices
News
The moon observed in visible light, topography and the GRAIL gravity gradients
science

...and it wasn't caused by an asteroid crash, as first thought

News
Researchers say a diet of fatty foods could impede smell abilities
scienceMeasuring the sense may predict a person's lifespan
News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
Extras
indybest
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: We have opportunities for Cov...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Maths Teacher required to tea...

Digital Fundraising Analyst/Web Analyst - West Sussex - Permanent - £30k DOE

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Application Support Engineer – 6 month FTC – West Sussex - £26k-£28k pro rata

£26000 - £28000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?