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War heroes remembered in Northern Ireland football programme

Published 11/11/2016

Harold Sloan, a former Irish football team captain who died on the Western Front
Harold Sloan, a former Irish football team captain who died on the Western Front

A former Irish football team captain who died on the Western Front has been commemorated in a special programme at Northern Ireland's Armistice Day clash with Azerbaijan.

Dubliner Harold Sloan joined the British Army in 1915 and served with the Royal Garrison Artillery but was killed in action aged 34 near the Somme in January 1917.

Writer and broadcaster Stephen Walker has chronicled the First World War service of many of Ireland's sporting greats and penned a piece featured in Friday night's match programme.

He wrote: "Harold Sloan personified the era of the gentleman amateur who played the game for love rather than financial reward."

Forward Sloan represented Bohemian FC in Dublin and made history by becoming the first player to score at their new Dalymount Park.

Mr Walker added: " He captained the Irish team and his finest performance was against Wales in 1906 when he scored a hat-trick in a thrilling 4-4 draw.

"He represented Ireland eight times and served Bohemians for twelve seasons, famously helping them to win the Irish Cup in their first-ever final against Shelbourne in 1908."

Sloan helped Bohemians rise to the top of Irish football while h is contemporary Dick Moore was doing the same with Linfield in Belfast.

Mr Walker wrote: "The son of a rope merchant from the Shankill, Moore was a talented left-half who combined military life with a football career. He played for Ireland and Linfield, and helped the Belfast club achieve the league and cup double in 1891."

Moore served in the First World War with the Royal Irish Rifles and the Royal Irish Fusiliers. He died in Greece in 1918.

Hiriam McKee, known as "Hymie", appeared for Belfast club Cliftonville in the 1893 Irish Cup Final against Linfield aged just sixteen.

He went on to appear three times for Ireland but became an accountant and emigrated to Canada.

In 1916 he enlisted with the Canadian Infantry and saw action in France, dying a century ago.

Mr Walker wrote: " His Commonwealth headstone carries his name and is marked by the Canadian maple leaf. It also has a simple inscription which reads 'ever remembered by his loving mother'."

Irish international Barney Donaghey played for Manchester United and was a natural but fiery goal scorer.

Mr Walker observed: "He was a crowd favourite and aged nineteen made his international debut for Ireland in 1902 against Scotland in a game played at Balmoral in Belfast.

"Scotland won 3-0 and the game marked Donaghey's sole appearance in an Irish shirt but he did not stop him having a lengthy career that took in clubs in Ireland, England and Scotland."

When war began he volunteered and as a member of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers was killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in July 1916.

Mr Walker has written Ireland's Call: Irish Sporting Heroes Who Fell in the Great War.

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