Geary Johnny “Chick” Image 1 Glentoran 1932


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East Belfast born inside left Johnny “Chick” Geary starred with a number of local clubs, including Ledley Memorial, Castleview, Grove United, and Willowfield, as a teenager while serving his apprenticeship as a joiner, but his goal was always to play for Glentoran. He then signed with Dundela, one of the leading intermediate sides in Belfast, in 1924, playing in Steel & Son and Intermediate Cup finals, and just missed out on Junior International honours. He was drawing the attentions of clubs across the water – approaches from Spurs, Middlesbrough, Aberdeen and Partick Thistle were all rebuffed, as was an opportunity to play for Glentoran Seconds.

Geary maintained he was happy to stay with The Duns unless he would make the Glentoran first-team, and indeed he was training with his intermediate team-mates when given the call to report to the Oval. He made his senior debut for Glentoran against Linfield on 2nd January 1926, playing a huge part from inside-forward in a 3-2 win. A couple of weeks later he scored his first senior goal in a 3-2 win over Cliftonville, and by the end of the season had his first senior medal, Glentoran losing 5-1 to Cliftonville in the Co. Antrim Shield Final. He also won an Irish Amateur international cap when he played against England in a 3-0 defeat at Cliftonville Gardens, Belfast. He also played twice for The Irish League in 1929.

It was not until 1928-29 that Geary claimed his first winner’s medal, from the Charity Cup, after a 3-3 draw with Distillery saw the trophy shared. His first major honour came with an Irish League title in 1931, as well as his first Co. Antrim Shield success after two previous final defeats. The following season brought a City Cup success and an Irish Cup following a 2-1 victory over Linfield.

In February 1931 Geary finally won international recognition, featuring at inside-left in a 0-0 draw with Scotland in front of 27,000 people at Windsor Park. Partnering him up-front was Glentoran team-mate, Fred Roberts, but the game was largely controlled by the weather, windy conditions spoiling the game as a spectacle. September the same year brought his second cap, again against Scotland, in a 3-1 defeat at Ibrox. Called-up for the last time for a match with Wales in December 1932, Geary had to decline the offer having been injured in a Seconds match against Belfast Celtic.

A return for Geary to the first eleven for a match against Distillery on 31st December proved to be short-lived – he collapsed and was carried off the field, never to play senior football again. Although just 25 when his career ended, he had already had a benefit match against Free State League runners-up Dolphins in May 1932, it is a measure of Geary’s impact on the club that he is so well remembered.

Johnny Geary later coached Glentoran’s youth sides, and a number of future internationals, including Billy Bingham, developed under his tutelage.

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