Lewis Jim Image 1 Glentoran 1904

Lewis Jim Image 1 Glentoran 1904


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Goalkeeper Jim Lewis made a single appearance for Glentoran during the 1895-96 season, establishing himself as the team’s regular ‘keeper the following season. It proved a very successful first campaign, as the Glens claimed the Irish League and City Cup in impressive fashion. The League was claimed by a six point margin, with only 10 goals conceded in 10 games. In the City Cup Glentoran were undefeated until the final, and by then meaningless, match. Lewis was noted as a “star” performer, and was even noted as having “played well” in the 4-0 Irish Cup exit at the hands of Distillery.

The 1897-98 season proved fruitless for Glentoran as they finished third in the League (by virtue of a 2-0 defeat by Cliftonville in the Runner-Up Test Match) and suffered a 4-0 Charity Cup Final defeat at the hands of the North Staffordshire Regiment. In November however Lewis was rewarded for his fine form the previous season with inclusion in the Irish League team to face the Football League in Manchester. That too proved an unhappy day as the English side ran out 8-1 winners.

Success returned to the Oval in the 1898-99 season, with Lewis once again playing a key role. In the Irish Cup his “many fine saves” saw off Distillery in the third round as Glentoran marched to the Final via a controversy filled semi-final marathon against Belfast Celtic. After a 2-2 draw in the first game, Glentoran won the replay 2-1 only for Celtic to lodge a protest about an ineligible player. In the second replay the scoreline was reversed, but this time the Glens protested about Celtic fielding an ineligible player. The fourth match at Grosvenor Park was an ill-tempered affair, with fighting in the stands. With Glentoran leading 2-0 late on the Celtic fans invaded the pitch forcing the referee to lead the teams off the field. When order had been restored the Celtic players refused to retake the field and the Glens were awarded the tie.

The Final against Linfield added more controversy to that season’s Irish Cup competition. In front of 35,000 people at Solitude the Blues took a first minute lead. The scoreline remained that way until the closing ten minutes when a Linfield player appeared to punch the ball of his own goal-line. As the Glentoran players’ appeals for a penalty fell on deaf ears they walked off in protest, leaving the referee no choice but to abandon the game. The IFA subsequently awarded the Cup to Linfield. More success was found in the City Cup, a solid Glentoran losing just once to finish two points clear of Linfield.

Lewis’ fine performances earned him selection for Ireland’s opening 1899 Home Nations Championship tie, against England in Sunderland. As half-time approached the English led 5-0 and were awarded a penalty. Up stepped fames Aston Villa full-back, Jimmy Crabtree, whose strike was saved by Lewis – that was one of just four “missed” penalties in nineteenth century international football. That the game finished 13-2 obviously did no harm to Lewis’ standing with the IFA’s selection committee, and he remained ‘keeper for the rest of that season’s Championship – a 1-0 win over Wales and a 9-1 defeat by Scotland (for which he was appointed captain).

A move to Distillery in 1899 saw Lewis largely play second fiddle to Jimmy Thompson as the Whites claimed the Co. Antrim Shield and Charities Cup. Lewis however remained in the representative sides’ selectors’ plans, appearing for the Irish League in a 6-0 defeat by the Scottish League in Edinburgh, and winning his fourth and final Ireland cap in a 3-0 defeat by Scotland in Belfast in March 1900.

Lewis returned to Glentoran in 1900, moving to the Oval along with five other Distillery players. The Glens put in a strong challenge for the Irish League title, only to finish a point behind Distillery thanks largely to a 1-0 last-game defeat by Belfast Celtic. In the Co. Antrim Shield Final Glentoran (having crushed Cliftonville Olympic 8-2 in an earlier round) faced the Cliftonville first eleven, winning 2-1 thanks to an 88th minute “scrimmage”. The following season the Shield was retained with a 2-1 Final win over Distillery and the Charity Cup was also added following a close and exciting 2-0 win over Linfield.

Early in the 1902-03 season Lewis picked up his third and final Irish League representative cap, as the Irish League lost narrowly 3-2 to the Football League at Solitude. On the domestic front Glentoran finished empty-handed, finishing third in the League, losing out in the City Cup after a three-way play-off and finishing runners-up in the Charity Cup Final thanks to a 2-0 defeat by Linfield (this after a five-game semi-final marathon against Distillery). The following season also proved one of so near and yet so far, the Glens finishing joint runners-up in the League and losing the Charity Cup Final 1-0 to Belfast Celtic.

Lewis played his 199th and final match for Glentoran in the spring of 1905, losing his goalkeeping berth to Gray who had starred in the Seconds’ Steel & Sons Cup success earlier in the season.

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