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Club News

Significant meeting

24 July 2013

Earlier this week, United's U13s lined-up against the Donegal Schoolboys in the opening game in Group E at this year's Foyle Cup tournament in Derry, Northern Ireland.

The points were shared in an entertaining 0-0 draw, but there was an underlying significance to the game.

What many in attendance may not have realised was the historic football connection between the two areas. For it was in the village of Kerrykeel in Co. Donegal that Sheffield United legend and FA Cup winning captain of 1925, Billy Gillespie, was born.

As many Blades fans would know, Gillespie spent 20 years with United amassing over 130 goals in nearly 500 games - with the undoubted highlight being in 1925 when he captained United to victory over Cardiff City. The scribes of the day were impressed:

"Sheffield United played wonderfully well but special praise is due to Gillespie, the man who waves a wand and whose influence has played such a vital part in United's capture of the Cup."

Gillespie would also have the honour of being the first Irishman to captain a FA Cup winning team.

With such a pedigree at club level, Irish caps were surely to follow, and the Kerrykeel man made his international debut in February 1913. Not any old debut either, scoring twice as Ireland achieved a first historic victory over England.

Gillespie was a thorn in the English side as seven of his 13 international goals came against the Three Lions. He is still, arguably, United's most capped player with 25 international caps, his namesake Keith amassed over 80 for Northern Ireland but not all of them with the Blades.

When Gillespie's United career came to an end in 1932 he returned to Ireland to take charge of Irish League side Derry City. As part of the deal taking him back to Ireland, Gillespie had to take a red and white team strip with him and Derry City adopted the colours, the Candystripes, which they wear to this day. He led Derry City to two City Cup triumphs and on four successive occasions they finished runners up in the Irish League.

When Gillespie left Derry City in 1941 he relocated to Bexley in Kent, where he died a month short of his 90th birthday in July 1981.

The Donegal native is still revered in Yorkshire and now plans are in place to honour Billy Gillespie in the village of Kerrykeel, Donegal, on Saturday 7th September 2013.

Billy's granddaughter, Jane, and her son will travel to the village and unveil a plaque in recognition of his outstanding achievements on the football field.

Representatives from Sheffield, Derry City, the FAI and IFA have also been approached to form part of the celebrations.

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