To this day, Jackie Carey is considered one of the greatest ever players to represent Ireland. Matt Busby claimed he was one of the best players to play for Manchester United, while less conservative observers have even claimed that he is the man every defender at Old Trafford must be measured against. In a career that was interrupted by World War II, he won 29 caps for Ireland, captaining both the FAI's and IFA's sides, as well as winning a host of honours at club level.
Born in Dublin in February 1919, John Joseph Carey was a member of the Home Farm club in Dublin as a schoolboy, but like many people at the time, he also played GAA and was selected to represent Dublin at minor level, before being banned by Croke Park because he also played 'foreign' games.
He joined St James's Gate in 1936, but within two months, he joined Manchester United for the princely sum of £250. He made his Ireland debut against Norway the following year. While at United, he played in 10 outfield positions, the exception being outside left, and even played in goal on one occasion.
World War II interrupted his career from 1939 to 1945 and Carey, a patriotic Irishman, volunteered for service and was stationed in Italy. He played football part-time while there and, unsurprisingly, he was asked to remain in Italy when peace was restored.
Luckily for Ireland, and Manchester United, he turned down the Italians' offers and in a trophy packed post war era, he became the first Irishman to captain FA Cup winners (1948) and English League Champions (1952). He was also named Footballer of the Year in 1949 and captained a Rest of Europe side that faced England in 1947. Also in 1947, he had the unique honour of captaining both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
After retiring from playing, Carey remained involved in football and became manager of Blackburn Rovers (twice), Everton, Leyton Orient and Nottingham Forest.
Between 1955 and 1967 Carey also served as team manager of the Republic of Ireland. However Carey had very little power as the team itself was chosen by a selection committee.