A sound reliable defender, Dublin born full back Jimmy Balfe was playing with Leinster Senior League side Reginald when he won inter-provincial honours against Ulster in March 1905 and January 1906, the latter match as captain. In April 1906 he guested for Bohemians in an end-of-season friendly against English giants Aston Villa before signing permanently for the club, and remained at Dalymount Park for two seasons. While with The Bohs he played twice for Amateur Ireland, his first cap arriving in a 2-1 defeat by England at Dalyer on 15th December 1906, his second in 1907. In 1908 he captained The Bohs to their only Irish Cup success, with a 3-1 replay win over Shelbourne in the Final. What was even more remarkable was that The Bohs had defeated Linfield and Belfast Celtic to reach the Final.
Ahead of the 1908-09 campaign Balfe had moved to Shelbourne, and it was while a Shels player that he played for The Irish League in a 5-0 defeat to The Football League at The Solidude, Belfast in October 1908, and also won his only full Ireland caps, stepping in for the unavailable Alex Craig of Rangers in a defeat to England at Bradford in February 1909. He was the only Dublin-based representative in this team. Later Sam Burnison, of Distillery and Bradford City, became Ireland’s recognised right back leaving Balfe to earn just one further cap in a defeat to Wales at Wrexham in April 1910.
A badly broken leg sustained against Linfield in November 1910 was perhaps the final nail in his international ambitions. With The Shels he won a Leinster Cup winner’s medal when Lancashire Fusiliers were defeated in the March 1909 Final. He was also part of the team which won the City Cup for the only time in their history. In a career spanning 9 seasons he scored his only goal in Shelbourne’s 1-0 defeat of Derry Celtic in the Irish League on the 28th November 1908. He later returned to Bohemians and played for them from 1910 until the First World War, retiring in 1915.
His older brother, John Balfe, also played for Bohemians as a full back.