Born in the Ballymacarrett area of Belfast, half back Johnny Darling had been on the books of, the then locally situated, Glentoran before signing with Linfield in 1894. He spent two decades in the Linfield team, joining them in the 1894-95 season and playing until 1915, claiming medals galore and representing Ireland and the Irish League in the process. Johnny Darling was a star of the Irish League over a twenty-year period. He was first capped by Ireland against England in February 1897 and won 22 full Irish caps, scoring once. He also won an unofficial cap in 1902 and played 16 times for The Irish League between 1897 and 1911 scoring twice in those games. He was 8 times an Irish League champion and 6 times an Irish Cup winner.
One of the earliest professionals in the Irish game, Darling also had the financial windfall of a testimonial at the end of his playing days, which netted him almost £300 – then a massive amount. He later served as President of Ormiston FC and Vice-President of Dundela.