One of Derry’s best known and most respected footballing sons has died.
Eddie Davis passed away peacefully late yesterday afternoon at his Argylle Street home. He was 96.
An outstanding footballer in the 1930s and 40s, Eddie played for several cross-channel clubs, including Wolves and Southend United before carving out a successful career with Derry City and later becoming a scout for top clubs such as Manchester United and Glasgow Celtic.
Born in Derry in April 1919, Eddie was reared in the Strand Road by his parents Willy and Bridget Davis.
Eddie started playing football for a local Derry and District team called Rock Rangers when he was 12-years-old but a year later he joined Distillery and made his debut for the club against Derry City at the Brandywell in 1932. When Eddie was 14 he was playing for Cork in the League of Ireland when an English scout spotted him and soon after he signed for Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Eddie spent two years at Molineux before joining Limerick where he won a Munster Senior Cup medal in 1937.
Eddie played tremendously well during his time with Limerick so much so that former Arsenal player and then manager of Southend, David Jack, offered him a contract which he accepted.
He was amongst Southend’s top goal scorers during his time in Essex however his career was cut short when World War II started in 1939. Like many players in England at the time Eddie returned home to play for his Derry. After the war was over David Jack was manager of Middlesbrough and tried to sign Eddie a second time but the formidable goal scorer decided that he wanted to remain in Derry as he had met and married Elish Quigley from Park Avenue.
Although opting not to return to England, Eddie enjoyed a successful career with Derry City and in his book titled ‘The Derry City FC Story’ former Derry Journal editor Frank Curran described Eddie as one of the best Derry City players to have never made an international appearance.
He continued his career with his hometown club and in one particularly memorable match, the North West Cup Final at the Brandywell, he bagged all 9 goals against Coleraine in a 9-1 victory - a record still held to this day.
Eddie scored many goals for Derry City but at the age of 32, when he decided it was time to step down after almost 20 years in professional football, as with all great players he went out in style.
Eddie’s last senior appearance was in a charity game in aid of the Nazareth House and, in front of a full house at the Brandywell when Derry City took on Belfast Celtic, Davis netted both goals as the Candystripes ran out 2-1 winners.
While the days of pulling on football boots were now behind him, for Eddie a second career in football was just beginning.
With his many connections in the game, he began scouting for various cross channel clubs, keeping them informed of talent all over Ireland.
His ability didn’t go unnoticed at the highest level and in the days after the Manchester United tragedy at Munich, Jimmy Murphy, assistant to Matt Busby, called on Harry Gregg and Eddie Davis to help him find players good enough to wear the famous red shirt.
Eddie was also responsible for organising various beauty queen pageants like the regional heat of The Rose of Tralee, The Derry Factory Queen, The Super Queen and the Maid of the Isles.
In addition, he was manager of well-known showbands, The Barristers, Peter ‘Boy’ and the Trend and The Bankers and he organised the special Night of Memories concert which featured all the famous local stars including Joseph Locke, Dana and Phil Coulter.
It goes without saying that Eddie Davis was a “star” himself.
Funeral arrangements are yet to be finalised.