Northern Ireland

Jimmy Hasty: One-armed footballer recalled in Radio Ulster documentary

Jimmy Hasty rises to score a headed goal
Image caption Jimmy Hasty rises to score a headed goal

There are some footballers who can inspire a team single-handedly and that was certainly the case with Belfast man Jimmy Hasty.

The Dundalk FC centre forward's left arm was amputated following a work accident as a teenager.

But he was determined this would not be an obstacle and went on to become one of the most celebrated players in the League of Ireland in the 1960s.

Hasty's journey from the streets of Sailortown to European glory in Switzerland is recalled in a new BBC Radio Ulster documentary.

Image caption Jimmy Hasty would always stand next to the goalkeeper in team photographs to hide that his arm was missing

Football fan and broadcaster Rigsy has talked to friends, family and fans of Hasty about his career.

"What we knew before we started - how Jimmy became a sporting hero despite losing his arm at a young age, his impressive career stats and the tragedy surrounding his death - was always going to make for an interesting story," he said.

"As we dug deeper and visited and spoke to his family friends and team-mates, many of whom had fantastic stories to tell often for the first time on radio - it soon became clear, however, there was so much more to Jimmy than just being a remarkable footballer."

In six seasons with Dundalk from 1960, Hasty scored more than 100 goals, becoming only the fourth player in the club's history to achieve the feat.

He also starred as they became the first League of Ireland team to secure an away win in the European Cup, defeating FC Zurich of Switzerland in 1963, following their title triumph the previous season.

But the former Newry Town player was shot dead by the loyalist Ulster Protestant Action group in October 1974 as he left his north Belfast home to go to work.

Image caption Hasty slots the ball past the goalkeeper, a familiar sight to Dundalk FC fans in the 1960s

The idea for the radio documentary came from a history student at Queen's University Belfast, who had pitched it to BBC Radio Ulster as part of an oral history collaboration.

Documentary producer Paul McClean says at first he thought the story was too far-fetched to be true.

"When this young guy Ryan Mallon initially pitched this, he had the idea of doing something about Sailortown and the disappearance of this once thriving multi-cultural part of Belfast," he said.

"But during his research somebody told him, 'of course there's our greatest footballing legend Jimmy Hasty'. Ryan had never heard of him either, but they were saying he was as good as George Best even though he only had one arm.

"I told him, 'I get how passionate you are about this but you have to research these things to see if they're true'. But it turned out to be 100% genuine.

"He should have played in England but he couldn't get insurance so he ended up playing across the border, signing a professional contract for Dundalk."

But how did Jimmy Hasty manage to play at such a high level if, as Paul McClean says, "football is all about balance"?

"It's not like he was born with one arm - he lost it when he was 14 so he had to relearn everything like how to run and play football," he says.

"It seemed to have done nothing but spur him on. If this hadn't happened, he might have been an average footballer because up to his accident, he was a fairly decent prospect but nothing special."

Image caption Rigsy, right, with Dundalk fan Kevin Maguire during the making of the radio documentary about Jimmy Hasty

Among those interviewed for the documentary were Jimmy's two sons Paul and Martin.

"It was Martin's seventh birthday whenever his dad was murdered walking down Brougham Street," he says.

"They'd obviously clocked him, because he was unmistakable, a 6ft 3in guy with one arm."

Rigsy says that while they were making the documentary, they would often ask each other how the story had not reached a wider audience.

"I hope this documentary - full of anecdotes that made us laugh and cry - as well as the astounding archive we discovered that no-one around him, including his family, had seen before will begin to put that right," he says.

"Hopefully Jimmy Hasty will no longer remain a lost legend."

Stories In Sound: Diamond In The Rough was broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster on Sunday 12 April and is available on the iPlayer.

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