BY SIMON WINTER
Paddy Moore was born in 1909 in Ballybough, Co. Dublin, just north of the traditional socio-geographic dividing line of Ireland’s capital, the River Liffey. Although those lines of class division have blurred a little in recent years, the general rule is if you are born north of the river you are working class and if you are born south you are middle or upper class.
From an early age it was clear that Moore was born with that rare touch of footballing genius. It wasn’t uncommon to see large crowds of spectators at his schoolboy games in Dublin’s Phoenix Park. Standing a little under five foot six, Moore used his low centre of gravity and exceptional technique to dazzle onlookers while playing in the old inside-right position for Clonliffe Celts FC.
Following impressive spells at Leinster Senior League clubs Bendigo and Richmond Rovers, Moore earned a move to Irish giants Shamrock Rovers towards the end of the 1928/29 season.
Playing in a more advanced central role, Moore scored twice on his debut for Rovers in a 2-0 win over Brideville in the Free State Shield. He followed that performance with a sensational hat-trick in his second game a few days later against St. James’ Gate. Moore finished his debut Rovers campaign with 8 goals in 5 games, leading to immediate interest from major British clubs.
Cardiff City made their move and signed Moore in time for the start of the 1929/30 season in the old English Second Division. As with many young Irish boys, moving across the Irish Sea proved a difficult transition for Moore and he returned to Shamrock Rovers in the summer of 1930, having made just one appearance for the Bluebirds.
Back in more comfortable and familiar surroundings, Moore soon rediscovered his form and while Rovers could only manage a mid-table finish in the league, Moore helped his side to the Free State Cup Final, netting a hat-trick in the semi-final against local rivals Bohemians. Moore also scored in the final against Dundalk in a 1-1 opening salvo and followed that up with the only goal in the replay. After the game had finished, Moore admitted he had used his hand in the build-up for his all-important winning goal.
Moore’s spherical mastery earned him his first call up to Ireland’s national team (which was called the Irish Free State international team at the time) for their visit to Spain for a friendly fixture. In front of over 100,000 fans in Barcelona, Ireland entered the field as massive underdogs, but they defied the odds to leave with a credible 1-1 draw.
21-year-old Moore was the star of the show, playing with a carefree verve and swagger, and he capped his display with a sensational goal. Moore cut through the Spanish centre before lifting an audacious Poborsky-esque chip over the advancing goalkeeper Zamora, who was widely considered as one of Europe’s best (and no relation to Bobby).
Moore’s next domestic campaign proved to be his most fruitful to date and he finished the season with 48 goals in all competitions, helping Shamrock Rovers to a domestic treble and confirming Moore’s reputation as the country’s finest footballer.
His next international appearance came in May 1932 in Amsterdam, where Paddy scored in an impressive 2-0 victory over Holland for the Free State.
Once again, Paddy was attracting the covetous advances of bigger British clubs and a more mature Moore agreed to move to Aberdeen in Scotland. This time Moore’s move proved to be a rousing success and he scored 27 goals in 29 league games in his first season, including a club record equalling 6 goals in 1 game against Falkirk, in what was just his 7th appearance for the Dons.
During three seasons at Aberdeen, Moore found the net 45 times in just 66 games, but it wasn’t just his ability to score that endeared him to the Scottish fans – it was remarked that his natural flair and creativity had restored a “forgotten artistry” to Scottish football and Moore was appreciated greatly by home and away fans alike.
This was Paddy at his sublime peak, but it wasn’t until 1934 that he would firmly graft his name to Irish footballing legend.
Although Moore had already made two notable appearances for the national team, both fixtures against Spain and Holland had taken place away from the Emerald Isle. His 3rd cap would be won in the city of his birth at Dalymount Park and Paddy would not disappoint.
On February 25th 1934, a 28,000 strong crowd welcomed Belgium on to the pitch for a World Cup qualifying game. Spirits were quickly dampened when the Belgians raced into a 2-goal lead after just 25 minutes. A minute later, Moore held off the attentions of two Belgian defenders to pull a goal back.
Early in the second half, Belgium restored their two goal advantage, before Moore repeated the trick and hit back immediately to make it 3-2. In the 56th minute, the diminutive Moore rose high above his marker to head home a cross from the right, completing his hat-trick and levelling the scores to rapturous celebrations.
Belgium retook the lead, however, scoring their 4th goal on the hour mark. The final 30 minutes of the game proved frustrating for the home side as their opponents retained possession, strangling the life out of the contest.
Ireland managed to win a corner from a late attack and after the initial delivery was cleared, Moore slammed home another precision header from the second ball in, earning Ireland a 4-4 draw and becoming the first player ever to score 4 goals in a single World Cup qualifying game.
Moore had entered the field a talented mortal, but had left it a footballing demi-god. And while Moore had long been revered among his fellow Dubs, his efforts had forged his reputation right across the nation.
The highs of a heroes’ status at home were stark in comparison with Moore’s life back in Aberdeen, however, and his longing for a return to Dublin caused him to turn to alcohol for comfort.
By the time he left Scotland to return to his beloved Shamrock Rovers in 1935, he was a confirmed alcoholic and the resulting fitness problems that caused led to inconsistent performances punctuated by sporadic moments of quality.
In 1936, Moore provided assists for 4 of Ireland’s goals in their emphatic 5-2 victory over Germany, despite the fact that he had been slumped over a hotel bar in the city centre a few hours before kick-off. The attending German officials were so impressed with Moore’s intelligence and passing range, they offered him a coaching role within their own national setup, but Moore refused their offer.
His last international appearance would come against Hungary in 1937, and after that, Moore’s battle with alcoholism drained him of the enthusiasm and discipline to maintain the kind of form that made him famous. After drifting around Ireland’s Junior Leagues, Moore emigrated to Birmingham in 1942 and worked as a labourer in the Dunlop factory in England’s second city.
Moore’s football career was effectively over at 26 and in that time he had amassed just 9 international caps, scoring 7 times. Tragically, Moore sold off those caps along with his medals to help fund his drinking (his family later recovered many of them following a newspaper appeal in 1984).
Paddy Moore died in July 1951 aged just 41. He will be remembered as an outstanding talent and an unselfish teammate. He could dribble and strike the ball comfortably with either foot and was blessed with natural explosive acceleration. He had a standing leap capable of conquering any opponent aerially, earning him the nickname “The Pocket Hercules”.
Irish archivists and football historians will tell you that Moore was second only to George Best as the most naturally gifted footballer ever produced in the island’s 32 counties.
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