1910 saw him give an exhibition in a holiday game against Glasgow Celtic
after which a Man Utd representative stepped in and signed him. On
December 31, United paid Celtic £175 for his signature and a clause was
added that ‘United’ agree to play at Celtic Park in the Easter
period of 1911.
Cassidy states that Mickey could not fit into the big city and had
trouble acquiring lodgings. Pat claims the nuns in Belfast and
Manchester placed him with temporary rooms with his great grandparents
in St. Patrick’s parish in North Manchester.
became attached to the Ball family and Bartle Ball, the head of the
house, claimed Mickey became like a brother to his grandmother Catherine
Ball and her six brothers and sisters. Pat says he believed Mickey
returned to Belfast to avoid conscription in 1914 but returned in 1920
to play for Manchester City.
settled happily again with the Ball family and a large photograph of
Mickey wearing his International Cap stayed in the house for many years.
Mickey was remembered with great affection and Pat says that his mother,
the daughter of Catherine Ball, always spoke of Mickey Hamill as the “George Best of his day”.
information was given to Pat Cassidy by his great aunt Dorothea Ball who
died a few years ago in her nineties. Dorothea and her husband Harry
were contemporaries of Mickey Hamill and knew him extremely well and Pat
would dearly love to find out more about Mickey Hamill who was like a
member of his own family.
own knowledge is practically nil and when his name comes up in
footballing company no one seems to know much more than his association
with The Centre Half Bar at the corner of Paton Street and the fact that
he was rated Celtic’s greatest ever player. That’s a huge statement
when you consider the likes of Mc Alinden as F.A. Cup medal winner with
Portsmouth, Charlie Tully, Bertie Fulton and a million more. I get the
impression Mickey was a loner and despite the reputation he bears I
think that seven ‘Caps’ is not a lot. He also had trouble making the
Man United side where trainer Geordie Livingstone told him he was yards
too slow for the Englishman’s faster paced type of game. He made him
do 25-yard sprints until it seems Mickey got sick and tired of training.
of Celtic’s all time great wingers Stanley Mahood said he had never
seen a finer or fitter athlete. Spectator’s used to gaze in awe as he
skipped on to the pitch like a trotting pony, his stomach was like four
tennis balls and the rest pure muscle and whipcord. After the war he
played a season for Glasgow Celtic and won a League and Cup medal.
then signed for Man City for £2,000 a won a Cup finalist medal. His
time at Maine Road was happy and the media had him billed as the
‘World’s Greatest’ centre half, a huge accolade for an Irishman in
wanderlust streak once again brought him back to his beloved Belfast
Celtic but Home Rule was on the boil and the sectarian strife ruled the
city. In 1925 he married a woman named Genevieve and the couple
immediately left for America where he played for Forth River,
Massachusetts. In no time he became an icon in the same mould as Babe
Ruth and was even invited to the White House. However he was soon back
in Belfast, the year was 1926 and he retired in 1930 but had a short
stint as manager of Distillery in August 1934.
few knick-knacks on his career included leading Belfast Celtic to their
first Irish Cup triumph against Linfield at Grosvenor Park on April 4v
1918. He played for Ireland against Scotland in victory International at
Ibrox Park on March 22 1919 and amused the crowd with his yells of ‘Celtic’s ball’ at throw ins. However the scribes in Glasgow
described his playing ability as “just quietly effective”. The only
way I can give an opinion on Hamill’s ability is that my late father
always said Hamill was the best player he ever saw – that will do me.
a sad ending, Mickey Hamill’s body was taken from the river Lagan at
Lisburn on 23 July 1943. I don’t think any verdict was ever reached on
this accident. As I said, Mickey Hamill lived a nomadic quiet existence
and all I can add is you don’t get to play for teams like Belfast and
Glasgow Celtic, Manchester United and Manchester City or your country,
unless you are one hell of a player.
matter what anyone thinks, Mickey Hamill is ranked among the all time
greats and that’s how he is remembered – a legend.