Jimmy Kelly (footballer, born 1911)

Jimmy Kelly (1911, Ballybofey, County Donegal, Ireland – November 1970) was an Irish footballer who played for, among others, Derry City, Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk. Kelly was one of the most prolific goalscorers ever to play in the (Northern) Irish League, scoring 748 goals in the league between 1928 and 1952. He also scored 12 goals during his time in the (Southern) League of Ireland and scored a further 193 in other competitions. Kelly was noted for having a powerful left footed shot.

Jimmy Kelly
Personal information
Full name James Kelly
Date of birth 1911
Place of birth Ballybofey, County Donegal, Ireland
Position(s) Outside Left
Youth career
Stranorlar School
Long Tower Boys School
Foyle Stars
St. Columb's Court
Newry Town
Fulton Rovers
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
192x–1928 Coleraine
1928–1930 Liverpool 0 (0)
Liverpool Reserves
1930–1946 Derry City
1942Shamrock Rovers (loan) 5 (5)
1946–1947 Dundalk 10 (6)
1947–1951 Derry City ? (23)
1951–1952 Coleraine ? (5)
1952 Ballymena United ? (0)
1952–19xx Ballymoney United
International career
1931–1936 Ireland (IFA) 11 (4)
1932–1936 Irish Free State (FAI) 5 (2)
1931–1948 Irish League XI 16 (6)
1947 League of Ireland XI 3 (0)
*Club domestic league appearances and goals

Kelly was a dual international and played for both Ireland teams – the IFA XI and the FAI XI. In 1932 he became the first (Northern) Irish League player to play for an FAI XI and in 1934 was a member of their first team to play in a World Cup qualifier. In 1936 Kelly actually played for both the IFA XI and the FAI XI within the same week and finished on the winning team on both occasions.

Club careerEdit

Early yearsEdit

As a youth Kelly played for several teams in the Derry and District League and also turned out for Newry Town. He then began his senior career with Coleraine before being signed by Liverpool in May 1928. However, he failed to make any senior appearances for the Reds and after over two years at the club, a disillusioned Kelly signed for Derry City for a fee of £100 in October 1930.

Derry CityEdit

Kelly made his debut for Derry City on 26 October 1930 against Linfield at Windsor Park. However it took him four matches to score his first goal for the club in a game against Glenavon. This was the first of 363 goals he would score for City. Among these goals was one in a 2–1 defeat against Linfield in the 1936 Irish Cup final. This was the club's first major final. Kelly continued to play for City into the early 1950s, helping the club to their first Irish Cup success, a 3–1 victory over Glentoran in 1949.

League of IrelandEdit

Although Kelly spent most of his career with Derry City, during the mid-1940s he played a couple of seasons in the League of Ireland, first with Shamrock Rovers and then with Dundalk. While on loan at Rovers he played alongside Peter Farrell, Tommy Eglington and Paddy Coad. He made his debut for Rovers on 22 February 1942, scoring the only goal in a league game at St. James's Gate.

Kelly spent the 1946–47 season at Dundalk and finished as the club's top scorer, scoring 6 in the league, 1 in the FAI Cup and 10 in other competitions. His goals helped the club finish as runners-up in the League of Ireland Shield. In 1947 Kelly also played three times for the League of Ireland XI.

Irish internationalEdit

When Kelly began his international career in 1931 there were, in effect, two Ireland teams, chosen by two rival associations. Both associations, the Northern Ireland – based IFA and the Irish Free State – based FAI claimed jurisdiction over the whole of Ireland and selected players from the whole island. As a result, several notable Irish players from this era, including Kelly, played for both teams. In 1936 Kelly had the unique experience of playing for two winning Irish teams within a week. On 11 March he helped the IFA XI beat Wales 3–2. Then on 17 March he was on the winning side again as the FAI XI defeated Switzerland 1–0.


Between 1931 and 1936 Kelly made 11 appearances and scored 4 goals for the IFA XI. He scored his first international goal on his debut on 17 October 1931 in a 6–2 defeat against England at Windsor Park. The other IFA XI goal that day was scored by Jimmy Dunne. In his next game on 12 December 1931 Kelly scored twice in a 4–0 win against Wales. These three goals saw Kelly finish as joint top scorer in the 1932 British Home Championship. He scored his fourth goal for the IFA XI on 11 November 1935 in 2–1 defeat against Scotland at Tynecastle. He made his last appearance for the IFA XI on 18 November 1936 in a 3–1 defeat to England.


Between 1932 and 1936 Kelly also played 5 times and scored 2 goals for the FAI XI. He made his debut on 5 May 1932 against the Netherlands and as a result became the first (Northern) Irish League player to play for an FAI XI. He subsequently helped them to a credible 2–0 win, setting up the second goal for Paddy Moore. Kelly made his second appearance for the FAI XI on 25 February 1934 at Dalymount Park when they made their World Cup debut in a qualifier against Belgium. Moore scored all four goals for the FAI XI as they came from 2–0, 3–1 and then 4–3 down to draw 4–4. Kelly turned provider for two of Moore's goals, one from a cross and one from a corner. He won his third cap from the FAI on 17 March 1936 in a 1–0 win against Switzerland.

Kelly made his final two appearances and scored his only two goals for the FAI XI during a European tour in May 1936. On 6 May he played in a 4–1 defeat to a Rhineland XI and then on 9 May he scored twice in a 5–1 win against Luxembourg. Jimmy Dunne also scored twice that day. Kelly would have won a further two caps for the FAI XI if it were not the IFA's then ban on Sunday football. He was initially called up for the game against Spain on 13 December 1931 and during the European tour of May 1936 he missed the opening game against Hungary. Both games fell on a Sunday and as a result Kelly missed out.

Irish League XIEdit

Between 1931 and 1948 Kelly also played 16 games and scored 6 goals for the Irish League XI. He made his debut for the Irish League XI in October 1931, scoring twice in a 3–2 win against a Scottish League XI. He also scored the winner in a 2–1 victory over an English League XI in September 1935 and the following year he scored a hat-trick against the same opposition in a 3–2 win.


Derry City


Jimmy was still playing football in the 1950s/60s for sea eagle rovers.

See alsoEdit

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