Finn Harps soccer legend Jim Sheridan is to be inducted into the Donegal Sports Star Hall of Fame at the 40th awards function in the Mount Errigal on next Friday night January 29th.
The Rathmullan native’s senior soccer career spanned 16 seasons most of which was spent at his beloved Finn Park. Jim’s honour comes seven years after his late father John was also inducted into the Donegal Sports Star Hall of Fame.
It means another little piece of history will be made as it will be the first time in the history of the awards that a father and son have been recipients of one of the biggest honours in Donegal sport. It’s the second time that Jim has been a Donegal Sports Star winner but you have to go back 38 years to 1978 when he scooped the soccer award.
He signed for Finn Harps in 1970 after spending a couple of seasons at St. Patrick’s Athletic. Jim earlier had brief stints at Sligo Rovers and Irish League side Coleraine whom he joined after Northern Ireland international Allan Hunter transferred to Ipswich Town.
But, it was with Finn Harps that Sheridan was to become a ‘cult hero’. He combined his football with a full-time career in the Gardai where again he demonstrated his dedication and determination by rising to the rank of Chief Superintendent in the Sligo District before retiring in 2002.
His first big success as a member of the 1967 Swilly Rovers FAI Junior Cup winning team. The victory came after the final had to be replayed because Swilly’s opponents had fielded an ineligible player. The first match had taken place at the grounds of St. Patrick’s Athletic and the replay was in Dundalk. Both Pat’s and Dundalk wanted to sign Jim Sheridan following his outstanding performances in those games. In 1969 Jim was approached by Patsy McGowan about signing for Finn Harps who had been given the green light to join the League of Ireland for the first time.
In a golden era for League of Ireland soccer Jim Sheridan enjoyed 13 seasons at Finn Park and all but one of those years he was captain.
It was a great Harps side and there was a great bond between the players. “I’m getting the Hall of Fame award but a lot of the credit must go to those players who I depended on. Likewise they depended on me.” Jim Sheridan is very proud of the fact that in the space of 10 years Harps played in the EUFA Cup four times which included games against Aberdeen, Everton, Turkish side Bursapor and Derby County.
“Not many League of Ireland teams have that kind of record in Europe. We were well beaten by Derby but they had a team full of internationals like Roy McFarlane, Colin Todd, Archie Gemhill and Charlie George. I was up against England striker Bob Latchford in the Everton games and also played against Kenny Dalglish when Celtic drew 0-0 with us in a friendly in Ballybofey. It was a great privilege to captain Harps in those games.”
Being in the same side as the great Brendan Bradley, the League of Ireland’s all-time record goalscorer also holds special memories for Jim as does playing against star names like Ray Treacy and Dave Wiggington. The one regret he has is that a really good Finn Harps teams of that era just failed to win the league title finishing runners-up an agonizing three times.
Undoubtedly the highlight of his playing career at Finn Park was captaining the one and only Harps side to win the FAI Senior Cup with a 3-1 win over St. Patrick’s Athletic in 1974. “Holding the FAI Cup that day as Finn Harps captain was a huge honour. Looking down on our huge crowd of supporters on Dalymount Park filled me with great pride” Jim said.
He was to play a further nine seasons with the Ballybofey club only hanging up his boots at the age of 38 in 1983 due to a back injury.
During almost all of his senior career Sheridan also captained the Republic of Ireland Amateur International soccer side.