Ireland's football family learned with regret of the death yesterday of John (Johnny) McGowan of Cork, a former Irish International and for many years a player and manager in the Football League of Ireland.
Johnny's long and successful association with Cork football yielded a rich harvest of successes for he was a member of the great Cork United team which dominated League of Ireland football in the 1940s.
He helped them win the League of Ireland Championship five times and the FAI Cup twice. He played with West Ham in London in 1947 before a developing professional career was cut short by a double cartilage injury to his knee.
He returned home to Cork in 1951 and was manager of the Cork Hibernians team that was beaten by Shelbourne in the FAI Cup final of 1960 when the great Charlie Tully was in the Cork team.
Johnny, of Ardfallen Estate. Douglas Road, Cork, was born in Passage, near the mouth of Cork Harbour. He first played football for Cobh United and was introduced to League of Ireland football with Cork FC in 1936 at the age of 16. He played with Cork City in 1939/'40 when that club replaced Cork FC and was signed by Cork United when they came into being in 1940.
He was a member of a powerful Cork dynasty when he moved to Wets Ham in 1947 in the company of his Cork club-mate Frank O'Farrell. Tommy Moroney was another Cork-born player at West Ham and when he and Johnny played in a local mid-Summer friendly at the Mardyke they were impressed with a powerful young local player on the opposing side.
They returned to Upton Park and urged the then manager, Ted Fenton, sign this young player. He was Noel Cantwell who went on to enjoy a glorious career in the English League with West Ham and Manchester United and grew into a major international player with Ireland.
Johnny McGowan played for Ireland in a friendly against Spain in Dublin on March 2nd, 1947. He won many representative honours with the League of Ireland team and veteran Cork football supporters will point to his performance in holding the prolific Dixie Dean scoreless at the Mardyke when the famous English International played for Sligo Rovers as one of his finest performances.
Johnny was one of the many former international players who were honoured guests of the Football Association of Ireland when the first international match was played at Croke Park - the European Championship qualifying tie against Wales in March, 2007. It was established at the banquet for the guests that he was the oldest surviving Irish international at the time.
His death severs a link with one of Irish football's golden eras when public interest in the game was at a peak and the standard, for historical as well as other reasons, was at its highest level.