Paddy Moore was born in 1909, and though he was from the north side of the Liffey he was a hero in Ringsend. He was reared near Croke Park and played Gaelic at school but from the start he excelled at soccer and his skill was so well-known and widely admired that when he was still a schoolboy, crowds of spectators would gather to watch him play in the Phoenix Park.
After he left school, he got a football apprenticeship with Clonliffe Celts FC. He later moved on to play for Richmond Rovers and Bendigo in the Leinster League.
Then he got a chance with Shamrock Rovers in their League of Ireland Shield campaign of May 1929. He scored eight goals in five games. His class was beginning to shine through and such fine scoring performances led to interest from British clubs.
He moved to Cardiff City for the 1929/30 season but the transfer didn’t go very well for the young man so he moved back to Dublin and back to Shamrock Rovers.
To begin with, Paddy played inside right and in that position he dominated the latter stages of the FAI Cup in 1931.
In the semi-final he scored in the first five minutes and Rovers held on to beat Bohemians 1–0.
In the final, against Dundalk, Rovers were a goal behind until the 84th minute, when Paddy equalised and earned them a replay.
In the second game, Paddy scored after 37 minutes and Rovers won 1–0. With three goals in three games from Paddy, Rovers took home the Cup and Paddy Moore was on his way to glory.
Next season, he was moved into the centre forward position and began to reach the peak of his form, scoring 18 league goals to help Rovers win the championship.
In the FAI Cup, Paddy was again vital to his team’s success and scored the winning goal in the final. All in all, in the 1931/32 season Paddy scored an astounding 48 goals and Rovers won the treble of League, Cup and Shield.
By that time Paddy Moore was an international player. His first game for his country was on the 26th of April 1931 against Spain in Barcelona. Facing the Spanish on their own ground was not easy for any team, and the Republic of Ireland was playing only its sixth ever international match.
The odds were against the men in green, but that didn’t bother Paddy Moore. He played as if it was a lazy Sunday afternoon and he was just having a kickabout in the Phoenix Park. The report of his contribution, a first-half goal which proved vital to the cause, says it all. “He completed a lightning first-half run from the centre spot by boldly chipping the ball over the head of Zamora, one of the best goalkeepers of the day.”
In his next international game he put in a performance that was even better. Playing Holland in Amsterdam in May of 1932, Paddy scored one of Ireland’s goals in a 2–0 victory.
According to the sportswriters of the day, there was only one word to describe him. He was “masterful”.
Britain’s clubs soon came calling again, and Paddy moved to the Scottish League to play for Aberdeen for the start of the 1932/33 season. He was a great favourite of the Scottish crowds and, in only his seventh league game, he set a club record by scoring six goals in a game.
He spent three seasons with Aberdeen, scoring 45 goals in 66 games to help Aberdeen reach respectable league positions in each season. And he brought something more than goals to Scotland. It was said that during his time there he had restored a “forgotten artistry” to Scottish football.
These were the best of days for Paddy, and in his third international game for Ireland he made more football history. His first two games in the green shirt had been away from home. But now the football lovers of Dublin got to see him play in an international and he didn’t let them down.
Belgium were the visitors to Dalymount Park for Ireland’s first-ever World Cup qualifying match, on February 25th, 1934. A crowd of 28,000 spectators saw Belgium go 2–0 up in the 25th minute. But that lead lasted for a mere sixty seconds. Paddy used his speed to “race onto a through ball” then held off two defenders to shoot under the Belgian goalie’s “despairing dive” to make it 1–2.
The score remained the same until two minutes into the second half, when Belgium scored to regain their two-goal advantage. Almost immediately, Paddy pulled Ireland back to within one goal, showing his poaching skills by “stretching out a leg” to redirect the ball into the net. And he didn’t stop there. In the 56th minute he completed his hat trick when he “latched onto a high cross by Kelly to steer the ball home.” With that strike, he had levelled the scores for Ireland. Three for Belgium, three for Paddy.
But the Belgians weren”t finished, and on the hour mark they went 4–3 ahead. They kept on the attack and must have thought they had the game won when Ireland managed a rare attacking move. It earned them a corner, and when the kick was taken, the ball went into the box and the Belgium defence cleared it out. It went to Kendrick of Ireland. He lobbed it back into the area, Paddy was there and he headed it in with perfection for his and Ireland’s fourth goal. Never before had anyone scored four goals in a World Cup qualifier. Paddy Moore had written his name in the record books forever.
He moved back to Shamrock Rovers after leaving Aberdeen in 1935 and played two final seasons with them. He was clearly not the player he had been and his fitness was certainly not as good as it might have been. But his “football brain” was still going strong, and he sparkled sporadically on the field.
One such example came in the FAI Cup final of 1936, when he showed the youngsters how it was done, controlling midfield for Rovers as they won the trophy again.
That was the last trophy win of his career, and he spent the next seasons gradually drifting out of the game. In the 1940s he worked as a labourer in the Dunlop factory in Birmingham before moving back to Dublin again.
According to the archives, his goal-scoring talent, both on the ground and in the air, was complemented by unselfish team play and precise ball distribution. He had explosive speed and perfect balance. He could dribble with both feet and had an uncanny capacity to read the game, anticipating the run of the ball and the movements of defenders.
A stocky 5 feet 6 inches tall, often described as a “pocket Hercules”, he consistently beat taller defenders in the air with the exact timing of his jumps. He had a breadth of skill comparable to George Best and was perhaps the most gifted natural footballer ever to come from the 26 counties.
Paddy Moore. It’s a pity there aren’t more like him.
By Gavan Bergin