Charlie Tully

Barefoot Days

Charlie Tully was born on the eleventh of July 1924 at 74 McDonnelll Street in the Pound Loney area, off the Falls Road in Belfast . He had twelve brothers and sisters. Educated at St Kevin's School, he played hurling and gaelic football there, skippering the school team.

At an early age, I discovered that my face and tongue were due to get me into a lot of trouble.

Despite his ability in the Irish codes, he loved soccer and was regularly in trouble at school for playing the game regarded as 'foreign' by his schoolmasters.

After being called upon to fill a spot on a youth soccer game in the Falls Park , Tully's football ability was relayed to the legendary Jack Myles, a former Irish athlete and teacher at Millford Street School , a breeding ground for great footballers.

Myles arranged that Charlie be transferred to his school and organised employment as a net boy for Belfast Celtic, while he continued to play football for Forth River, Whiterock and gaelic football for Sean MacDiramada CLG, with whom he won a junior medal.

His barefoot days were coming to an end, as the bright lights of football stardom were beckoning for the skinny winger who began to impress all around him with his cheeky skill and jinking abilities.

Belfast Celtic

Jack Vernon pulled the green and white jersey over my head and Jimmy McAlinden pushed my first pair of shin guards down my stockingsfor once in my life I was speechless!

Celtic's coach Willie McDonald sent word from Elisha Scott, Belfast Celtic's towering manager, that Charlie was to report for duty at Grosvenor Park , home of Distillery, for a game against Glentoran after Scott had seen him play in the Whiterock League.

It was always a source of amusement for Charlie that the great Elisha hadn't recognized Charlie as one of his own net boys!

Ushered into the dressing room for his first game, Tully was star struck to be among his heroes, men like Tommy Breen, Bertie Fulton and Syd McIlroy.
So frozen was Charlie that Belfast Celtic's stopper Jackie Vernon had to pull on his jersey and the great Jimmy McAlinden would slip his first pair of shin guards into his socks before that, Tully had only ever used newspapers and old magazines for the same job.

On his debut, the press reported the next day that; "He did more that the established stars" and that "This schoolboy is an outstanding discovery of the future."

The teenage Tully had made an impression.

In order to build his diminutive physique, Belfast Celtic allowed Charlie to go on loan Ballyclare Comrades and Cliftonville in north Belfast before he established himself firmly in the first team in the mid-1940's, where he soon copped the nick name 'Cheeky Charlie', for his antics and bold play on the field.
His crowing achievement at Belfast Celtic came in on April 26 1947, when Tully won the Irish Cup with a winning goal against Glentoran at Windsor Park .

His star was very much on the rise!

Glasgow Celtic

After helping Belfast Celtic win the league in 1948, Charlie was snapped up by Glasgow Celtic.

Their Chairman, Robert Kelly, had spotted Tully some years before in a friendly encounter between the two clubs and he knew that Charlie was the type of player the Celtic Park faitful would appreciate he played the ' Celtic Way '!
Unlike Belfast Celtic, who were riding high in Irish football, Glasgow Celtic were in the post-war doldrums, having almost been relegated at the end of the 1948 season only a hat trick of goals from Jock Weir at Dundee had kept them up.

On June 20th of that year, Tully sailed into the Broomielaw and into history, penning a deal with the Glasgow giant, with whom he would play for the next eleven years.

It took me three hours to decide on the Timaloys as opposed to the English glamour clubsit had always been an ambition of mine to play for the great Scottish club!

'Tullymania' soon erupted as Charlie's flamboyant style and cheeky persona was unleashed on the Scottish league and he destroyed Ranger's 'Iron Curtain' defence so renowned at the time, in a 3-1 win to Celtic, in which reporters described Tully as; "The miraculous Irishman" who "bewildered, badgered and mesmerised Rangers."
Celtic's supporters took the cheeky imp to their hearts and his appearance in the team put tens of thousands of extra fans through the turnstiles at Celtic Park .

He became a favourite of the tabloid press, who enjoyed his wit, charm and Irish 'blarney' and soon he was writing a syndicated column for the Evening Citizen paper, called 'Tullyvision'.

Soon, Glasgow cafs were selling Tully ice cream, bars were flogging Tully cocktails and drapers were doing a roaring trade in Tully ties.

On the field, Celtic remained stop-start, due to the constant tinkering of the team from board level and poor management practices.
Despite that, there were many magical moments, including a 7-1 humbling of Rangers in the 1957 League Cup Final, the Coronation Cup tournament victory of 1953 and many individual instances of brilliance, including twice scoring against Falkirk from corners at Brockville .

When Charlie arrived at Paradise , Celtic hadn't won the league for a decade and were almost relegated this would never happen again while he was there and despite a modest trophy haul, for a player of his ability, he left an indelible mark on all those who watched him play.

Later Life

Charlie left Glasgow Celtic in 1959 to take up a management position in Cork with Hibernians.

While their manager, he took the club to FAI cup finals on two occasions (1961 and 1963), finishing runner up each time.

It's my ambition to become a manager of a football clubpreferably in Ireland . My wife Carrie likes Scotland, but still hankers for home..

While he was manager at Mardyke, the club also racked up its biggest ever win, shooting ten goals by a hapless Transport Club.

North Down Seaside club Bangor were his next destination, and two spells at the club in the 1960's, broken by a short spell in management at Portadown FC, would leave a successful mark on the Irish League minnows.

In 1970, Charlie led Bangor to their first senior trophy, the Co. Antrim Shield, adding the old City Cup to the cabinet later that same year.

While living back in Belfast, he was also employed as the Northern Ireland representative for Mackinlay's Blended Whiskey and he was a regular feature in Beacon's Bar on the corner of the Falls and Springfield Roads, each Monday night where he could be found sharing a pint with his great friend, Belfast Celtic star Jackie Vernon


Charlie was a proud Irish international and pulled on the green jersey ten times for his country.

Injuries cost him a further seven caps and also a place at the 1958 World Cup Finals.

Representative honours were first achieved while at Belfast Celtic in 1947, when a youthful Charlie took to the field against an English league side featuring Stanley Matthews and Billy Wright.
Ireland surrendered a 2-0 lead to go down 4-3, the better fitness of the English league players telling as the match went on.

Tully received his first full international cap a year later against England at Windsor Park and his best international performance again came against the Old Enemy on October 9 1952, when he scored a 25 yard volley against 'keeper Gil Merrick, capping off his performance with a trademark goal scored direct from a corner kick.

In '48 came my first full cap against England at Windsor Park and I'm certain I wouldn't have been chosen if I hadn't crossed the water to Glasgow.

His opposite number on that occasion was Alf Ramsey, who would later manage England to world cup glory but there was no glory for Ramsey on that occasion, as Charlie ran him ragged, leading him a merry dance on the Irish right flank.

Charlie was supportive of Peter Doherty, the towering Irish international who took the management reigns of the Irish side in the mid-50's, leading them to share the Home Championship with England in 1958 a long way from the 'wooden spoon' years which had gone before.

Charlie rated Doherty as 'The greatest team boss in the world', who pushed Ireland to their greatest potential with a limited number of players.

Tully's final cap came in 1958 to his great shock, as he had been out of the international scene for some year. He told a story of walking along Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow , where news vendor's posters were screaming out two headlines one read 'Holy Father dies in Rome ', while the other said 'Tully gets Ireland call-up'.

Charlie remarked that he didn't know which headline caused him the most shock!