Portadown, County Armagh born outside right Davy Cochrane caught the eyes of Leeds United while starring in the Irish League as a teenager with Portadown, whom he’d joined in 1935. Such was his diminutive stature, that when he arrived in Leeds for £2,000 in August 1937 aged only 17, they thought he was a jockey, not a footballer! “A box of tricks”, he played just once in his first season at Elland Road making his Football League debut in a 2-0 home defeat to Derby County before establishing himself during the 1938-39 season. Although he had only a handful of first team appearances behind him, Cochrane’s skills and “blistering speed” brought the attentions of the Irish FA selectors, who included him, just a few months past his eighteenth birthday, in the line-up to face England at Old Trafford in November 1938. Despite a 7-0 defeat, he held on to his place for the following March’s match against Wales, Ireland losing 3-1 in what turned out to be their final international prior to the outbreak of the Second World War that September.
Up to the outbreak of the War in 1939, and the consequent abandonment of the Football League season, Cochrane had made a total of 34 League and FA Cup appearances for Leeds. He played a further 13 Wartime League and Cup games before returning to his native Portadown in 1940. He helped Portadown to runners-up spot in the Northern Regional League in 1941, but the club was then forced to fold for the duration of the War. Cochrane spent a season with Shamrock Rovers before he was convinced to move back north to join Linfield where his father had played at inside right. Although he spent just three years “guesting” at Windsor Park, his performances and achievements remain embedded in Linfield folklore, winning two Wartime League titles, two Irish Cup Final appearances, a Gold Cup success and a haul of 50 goals in a single season!
After another season with Shamrock Rovers, Cochrane returned to Leeds United for the resumption of League Football in 1946. It proved to be a disastrous first season back for Leeds who were relegated, finishing bottom of the First Division fifteen points from survival. That summer saw a mass clear-out of players, with Cochrane one of the few to survive the cull. Back on the international stage, Cochrane was just one of four players to return to the Ireland team after the War. Their first outing finished in a 7-2 hammering by England, but there then followed a remarkable four-game unbeaten run, which included a victory over Scotland and a draw with England (bringing to an end a run of 12 consecutive wins for the English). He won 12 Ireland caps between 1938 and 1949 in addition to 4 League of Ireland caps.
Cochrane remained with Leeds until early in the 1950-51 season, but was unable to help them regain their top flight status. It shocked many when he announced his retirement aged just 30 after 32 goals in 186 appearances, “I always dreaded coming to the end of my career… soccer meant so much to me and I always wanted to finish at the top.”