Tony Grealish 1957-2013
The death has occurred, at 56 and after a long illness, of the former Irish international soccer star Tony Grealish.
Tony was born in 1957 in north London, the elder of the two sons born to Pakie and Nora Grealish.
Tony and his younger brother Brian were regular players for St Agnes GAA club in Cricklewood. Tony played gaelic football for the club for eight years, and represented London at various under-age teams up to minor level.
In the early seventies Tony was to make his mark as a GAA footballer, representing London against Dublin in the curtain raiser for the annual Whitsun (first week-end in June) GAA spectacular at the Old Wembley stadium. It was not to be his last visit there.
As a teenage player for Leyton Orient, he continued to moonlight for the Agnes’s, but eventually was forced at the age of 16 to give up GAA, if not his Irish roots.
He belonged to the golden generation of the Orient with fellow gifted young players Laurie Cunningham, Glen Roeder, Bobby Fisher and Dean Mooney.
Tony was called up to play for Ireland by then player-manager Johnny Giles to make his debut against Norway in March 1976: Ireland won 3:0 and remained undefeated for another six games.
Two major qualifying tournments followed in which Ireland was arguably denied its rightful place in the later rounds.
A controversial, disallowed, Steve Heighway goal prevented Ireland’s debut in the 1978 World Cup in Argentina.
Under the stewardship of Eoin Hand, goal difference in a group that contained France, Holland and Belgium prevented Ireland going to the World Cup in Spain.
During this period Tony made what was to be his second appearance at the Old Wembley wearing green – but this time wearing the Ireland soccer colours.
It was the Golden Age of Irish international soccer with a national side that contained more raw, natural talent than any side since: David O’Leary, Mark Lawrenson, Gerry Daly, Chris Houghton, Don Givens, Frank Stapleton, Steve Heighway and Liam Brady.
In 1982, they played England off the park in a qualifier in Dublin.
As a Cricklewood lad and ex GAA player Tony was a bona fide local hero.
At club level, Tony, now known as “Paddy” Grealish, was playing for Brighton and Hove Albion. He was at the forefront of their rise to the old First Division, and in 1983 he made his third appearance at Wembley – leading out the team to play Manchester United.
He ended his international career with 45 caps and eight goals for Ireland.
The hard tackling, talented, midfielder, for clubs and country, remembered fondly and in high esteem that he is held by supporters of Orient, Brighton, Luton and Manchester City, and by by Irish fans for the unique inspiration he offered to two generations of Irish people, born on either side of the Irish Sea.
Our sincerest condolences to his family.