Irish Footballers that Played for Manchester United – Noel Cantwell
Noel Cantwell – Introduction
Noel Cantwell from Cork in the Republic of Ireland was born on 28 February 1932. A highly talented sportsman, Cantwell also played international cricket for Ireland. He joined West Ham United from Cork Athletic as a 20 year old and went on to play in defence for the Hammers for eight years. In Matt Busby’s attempts to reconstruct his Manchester United team, following the tragic events of the 1958 Munich air disaster, the great manager saw Cantwell as an important element in this pursuit. Noel Cantwell signed for Manchester United in November 1960 for a transfer fee of £29,500. This was a record fee at the time for a fullback.
Noel Cantwell & Manchester United
Noel Cantwell made his debut for Manchester United against Cardiff City on 26 November 1960 at Ninian Park. It was an inauspicious debut for Cantwell as United lost 3-0. Things looked up as United then went on a seven match unbeaten run that included six wins and one draw. It was in this run of matches that Noel Cantwell scored his first goal for Manchester United. He scored the first goal in a 3-0 win over Middlesboro in the FA Cup.
In his first season with the club Noel Cantwell’s Manchester United team finished 7th in the First Division but made no significant progress in either cup competition. In the next two seasons the Red Devils slid down the table finishing 15th and 19th, narrowly avoiding relegation in the 1962/63 season. However Cantwell did have the honour of leading Manchester United out for the 1963 FA Cup final against Leicester City at Wembley Stadium. The team also contained fellow Irishmen Tony Dunne at fullback and Johnny Giles in midfield. Through goals from Denis Law and David Herd (2) United ran out 3-1 winners.
In the 1963/64 with Noel Cantwell as captain United improved their league position to such an extent that they were runners-up to Liverpool FC. The next season saw Manchester United go one better as they won the First Division title although Cantwell missed most of that season due to injury. He returned to make 29 appearances in the 1965/66 season in which United were 4th in the League, and reached the semi-finals of the European and FA Cups. It was during this season that Noel Cantwell scored his last goal for Manchester United on 30 April 1966. It was against his former club West Ham in a 3-2 defeat at Upton Park.
Cantwell’s last season with the Reds was also blighted by injury and he only made four appearances as United went on to win the League title for the second time in three seasons. Noel Cantwell’s last appearance for Manchester United was against Southampton on 19 November 1966 and United won 1-2 at the Dell.
Manchester United Legend Bobby Charlton’s Views on Noel Cantwell
In his autobiography had the following to say about Manchester United and Ireland fullback Noel Cantwell:
Noel Cantwell – Republic of Ireland Career
Noel Cantwell made his debut for the Republic of Ireland on 28 October 1953 against Luxembourg at Dalymount Park. Cantwell was just 21 years of age as Ireland ran out 4-0 winners in a 1954 World Cup qualifier. Ireland did not qualify for that World Cup but Cantwell did have the pleasure of scoring his first international goal against the reigning World Cup winners as Ireland beat West Germany 3-0 at Dalymount Park on 25 November 1956. Man of the match Noel Cantwell scored Ireland’s first goal from the penalty spot 17 minutes into the second half.
Cantwell captained Ireland on a number of occasions and he scored 14 goals (5 penalties) in 36 appearances. An international scoring ratio of 39% that many forwards would be very happy to achieve. Noel Cantwell played his last match for the Republic of Ireland on 22 February 1967 against Turkey in a 1968 European Championship qualifier in Ankara. Cantwell also scored his last goal for Ireland in this match. It was an 89th minute consolation goal as the Turks were already 2-0 up at the time. Nevertheless, Noel Cantwell’s last action in his Irish international career was to score a goal for Ireland.
In March 2015 Noel Cantwell was honoured in his native Cork when a pedestrian passageway near where he grew up in the city was named after him.
Noel Cantwell – Manchester United & Ireland Statistics
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