Belfast Telegraph

Joe Gormley up there with cream of the crop

By Graham Luney

Does Joe Gormley deserve his place among the legendary strikers the Irish League has produced?

Who would you rather have in your team – Gormley or Liam Boyce?

Perhaps, with all the cross-channel interest, Cliftonville fans might ask themselves which player they would least like to lose. The outcome of that vote would be interesting.

Watching Gormley strut his stuff leaves us meandering down memory lane, reflecting on the many talented predators that have graced the Irish League stage.

Leading the list of Northern Ireland goalscorers is Jimmy Jones (646), Glenn Ferguson (563), Joe Bambrick (561), Tommy Dickson (474), Dessie Dickson (452), Jimmy Kelly (409) and Vinny Arkins (248).

Vinny (pictured) banged in the goals for the Ports but also had spells at Shamrock Rovers, St Johnstone, Shelbourne and Notts County.

Kelly found the net for Coleraine and Derry City but also terrorised defences at Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk. Both Dickson and Bambrick lined out for Glentoran and Linfield.

The legendary Jimmy Jones competed for Belfast Celtic, Glenavon, Portadown, Bangor and Newry from 1948 to 1965. In the last 30 years we have been blessed with some prolific marksmen, men who were worth the entrance fee alone because they could do something special. In short, they were matchwinners.

Arkins was prolific and the Ports also had Stevie Cowan and Garry Haylock.

From 1997 to 2003 very few strikers threatened to surpass Vinny's scoring exploits. Only Linfield's Davy Larmour emerged as a contender to top the scoring charts.

Linfield had Martin McGaughey who, in the mid 1980s, was unplayable at times. Gary Macartney was also a ruthless finisher for Glentoran in the 1980 and 90s.

Glenn Ferguson was an awesome finisher for Glenavon and he continued in the same vein when he brought his shooting boots to Windsor Park where he was ably assisted by Peter Thompson. They scored a sensational 90 goals between them as Linfield's Grand Slam winners of 2006 captured the Irish League title, the Irish Cup, the League Cup and County Antrim Shield within the space of six months.

But lethal strikers have emerged in other colours too.

Glentoran had Gary Hamilton while Coleraine had Rory Patterson.

Gary McCutcheon also enjoyed a prolific spell at Ballymena United.

Then Boyce came to the fore along with a relatively unknown rookie from Amateur League minnows Crumlin Star, a side that now train at Seaview, play games in Larne and don't yet have a ground they can call home.

The Reds had already seen the potential in this promising teenager and the move was made to bring him back to Solitude.

Scoring goals in the Northern Amateur League was one thing, but could he produce that ruthless touch in domestic football's top flight?

Well, hasn't that question been well and truly answered!

Maybe we shouldn't have been that surprised. Before returning to Solitude, Gormley scored 61 goals including 12 hat-tricks in the 2010-11 season. His current stats are phenomenal. He's become the first player in the club's history to net 30 goals in two separate seasons.

The 23-year-old scored 30 goals last season and he's on 31 for this season – and it's still January.

Boyce claimed a club record 36 last season.

Opinions are coloured by allegiances and fans will have their own favourites.

Was it harder to score goals in the past when some pitches were in a shocking state?

When you are talking about natural finishers, Gormley is right up there with the best.

My top five sharp-shooters

1 Glenn Ferguson – The current Ballymena United boss was a goal machine and the number of medals he collected reflects his killer touch in front of goal.

2 Vinny Arkins – The Dublin-based striker scored 248 goals in his Portadown career and was the Irish League's top marksman for a decade.

3 Martin McGaughey – Nicknamed 'Buckets', in the 1984–85 season he finished second in the European Golden Boot race to Porto's Fernando Gomes, scoring 34 league goals in 26 matches (56 overall) and failing to add more as his season was cut short due to a severe knee injury.

4 Liam Boyce – For his technique and finishing power, Boyce makes my top five. Too good a player for the Irish League at this moment.

5 Joe Gormley – The league's most lethal finisher though he could score more with his head!

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