During the recent period of enforced football inactivity Linfieldfc.com has provided weekly programme articles on some of our former players.
The series commenced 17 weeks ago with an article on Jim Lemon and has continued over the past 16 weeks with features on Tommy MacDonald, Stephen McKee, Eric Bowyer, Tony Gorman, Lindsay Curry, Damien Curran, Colin McCurdy, Martin McGaughey, Roy Walsh, Frankie Parkes, Warren Feeney senior, George O'Boyle, Noel Bailie MBE, Lindsay McKeown, Peter Thompson and Alan Fraser.
In this week’s article Linfieldfc.com reproduces an article from January 2019 in which the spotlight was focused on legendary 1980s goalkeeper, Torrans Trophy award winner and Linfield Life Member George Dunlop.
CULT HEROES – GEORGE DUNLOP
by James Kennedy
9 League titles with Linfield means that George Dunlop, the outstanding last line of defence in the great Roy Coyle teams of the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, is second only to another legend, Noel Bailie (10 winners’ medals).
“In total I have 25 winners’ medals across all tournaments, including 2 Irish Cups and 6 or 7 Co. Antrim Shields and various other medals, so you could say that I had a good career at Linfield!”
Having impressed while at Orangefield Boys’ Secondary School, George was signed by Manchester City, and he spent 3½ years at Maine Road, playing in the Youth team alongside the likes of Peter Barnes and Gary Owen, while hoping to dislodge Joe Corrigan from the No.1 jersey.
“That didn’t happen of course, Joe was a great goalkeeper, and I was released by the club, returning to Belfast where I signed initially for Glentoran.”
After a couple of fruitless seasons at The Oval, George moved to Ballymena Utd where he spent two years in which he made a name for himself as a solid goalkeeper.
In 1977 he signed for Linfield, and was promoted to the 1stteam early in 1979, winning his first League medal at the end of that season. That summer, in one of his first experiences of European football with The Blues, he played in a game memorable for all the wrong reasons.
“We were drawn against Dundalk in The European Cup, and I think everyone knows about that game. It was the most intimidating and frightening experience, although on the pitch both teams played in a sporting manner, and the referee, Pat Partridge, did what he could to calm the situation”.
Such was his form that George was voted Ulster Footballer of the Year in 1981, and in 1982 he was part of the Northern Ireland squad which went to the World Cup finals in Spain.
“Words really can’t express how proud I was to be part of Billy Bingham’s squad. I was among a great group of people - Pat Jennings, Martin O’Neill and Gerry Armstrong were some of the big personalities – and then you had young Norman Whiteside who handled the whole experience really well. You could see that he had what it took to be a superstar, and it’s a pity that his career was cut short by injury”.
Closer to home, George also found himself in the midst of some Irish league greats.
“You had some top players, like Jim Cleary and Felix Healy, in the League, but the Linfield players that I played with were without equal, and maybe we didn’t get the credit we deserved. The Raff was a great leader, then we had wee Nicky, Peter Dornan, Warren Feeney, and a young lad called Martin McGaughey, who took some stick at the start but went on to prove the doubters wrong and score loads of goals”.
Speaking of stick, as an East Belfast native, George took his fair share of abuse from a small number of Glentoran fans, which on one occasion went as far as having his tyres slashed outside his house.
“That was an isolated incident, and for most of the time the banter was light hearted”.
Recognising that he was on the wane, George left Windsor Park in 1990, and eventually took to coaching at Bangor, initially with the Reserves before taking over as manager of the 1st Team for two years from 2005.
“My aim was to gain promotion for Bangor and we nearly did that, losing a play off to Glenavon. I didn’t want to go any further and I left that summer”.
These days, George keeps himself busy coaching at Bangor Young Men, where his young grandson plays, and making guest appearances at Windsor Park.
“It was great to be back on the pitch on Boxing Day against The Glens. The hospitality from the club and the fans’welcome were superb, as it has always been, and myself and the rest of the lads will be eternally grateful for that”.