Decorated Irish League goalkeeper with an International cap to his name, John Gough kept goal for the Braidmen for the historic 1929 Irish Cup final and in retirement even ended up on the club's committee!
Born and raised in Belfast, like many of his peers ' John spent his formative adult years in the military representing the Royal Irish Rifles between 1914-1918; honing his talents as a goalkeeper playing Army football during the First World War. It was not until the 1919/2020 season in which Gough started to build his football career at club level ' appearing for local side Brantwood in the Steel and Sons Cup final defeat against Dunmurry in December 1919. There was also disappointment as the North Belfast club lost out to Glentoran in the semi-final of the Irish Cup in the same season.
Gough and his Brantwood team-mates bounced back in style the following season as they romped to the Intermediate League title for the first time in the club's history and also avenged their Steel & Sons Cup final defeat the previous year, by winning the 1920/1921 Christmas Day clash against Bangor in front of 20,000 spectators. Off the pitch the club had moved into their new grounds at Alexandra Park Avenue during the summer of 1921 with speculation a move into senior football could be imminent, but they failed to maintain their dominance of Intermediate football as a poor start to the 1921/1922 season gave the club too big a margin to claw back ' eventually finishing runners-up and also beaten finalists to Dundela in the Clements Lyttle Cup in April 1922.
For John, his stock had risen considerably during Brantwood's successes (he was even called upon to play outfield on occasion) and was selected to represent the Intermediate League team to face their Glasgow counterparts in a 1-1 draw in March 1922. Interest from further afield grew in the 26-year-old custodian, as he was invited to trial with Everton of the English top-flight. Despite the Liverpool Daily Post (31 August 1922) noting his performance in a trial match as 'Gough looks like developing into a class goalkeeper, and one who will lend some enjoyment to the game, with his mannerisms' he was not offered terms with the Merseyside club.
Upon his return to Belfast, speculation in the press hinted of a return to Brantwood, however in November 1922 he stepped up into senior ranks with new side Queen's Island. It proved a good fit for player and club, as in only their second season in the Irish League they finished runners-up during the 1922/1923 campaign. Gough made his debut against Glentoran in the opening game of the City Cup competition (which Queen's Island won 3-2) shortly after signing and within two months the goalkeeper was pocketing his first senior medal as the club eventually won the 10-game City Cup series to much acclaim. In March 1923, John fortuitously secured his first Irish League representative cap, owing to a sudden illness of Glentoran goalkeeper McClure, he was drafted in to face Wales at Solitude in a game which was drawn 2-2.
The following season at Queen's Island (1923/1924) proved to be nothing short of sensational as the team, led by captain Joe Gowdy, secured a remarkable quadruple haul of trophies. The Irish League championship was the first of the four trophies secured with games to spare by Gough and co. on Christmas Day 1923 against Ards, despite having been deducted two points earlier in the season. The Irish Cup followed in March with John keeping a clean sheet in the narrow 1-0 victory over Willowfield at Windsor Park, and the goalkeeper repeated the feat in the County Antrim Shield decider, as Queen's Island scored three without reply against Distillery the following month. Despite an elbow injury late in the season, Gough was on hand to complete the set of four medals by securing the Belfast City Cup to cap a memorable season.
Off the back of his trophy laden campaign, Gough was rewarded for his performances with a call up to the Ireland team for his solitary international cap against a touring South African side. The Irish team was made up of only locally based players (and included Queen's team-mate Tom Croft) lost 2-1 at Solitude in September 1924. He was back at the same venue a month later to earn a second (and final) Irish League representative cap against the English League, a game in which the home side lost 5-0.
Domestically, Queen's Island were not as formidable a force as the season past, but still managed to finish as runners-up in the 1924/1925 Irish League standings. Defeat in the replayed final of the Gold Cup in April 1925 followed, but there was some trophy success with a third successive City Cup triumph ' but only after a four month saga which saw two drawn test matches against Glentoran with the third (and final) attempt held over until September 1925 when the new season was already underway, which Queen's Island and Gough won 3-2 at Solitude.
Despite the early season silverware, the 1925/1926 promised much but delivered little for the East Belfast club. The wheels fell of their push for a second Gibson Cup, as they dropped from second place at Christmas to eventually finish sixth in the league table. Queen's Island fell a point short of retaining the City Cup once again, finishing as runners-up to Belfast Celtic in the final table in May 1926. John remained a constant figure in the side, as the Shipyard men rebuilt and went in search of glory again the following season ' eventually pipping Distillery into second place in the Irish League in their final league outing, having failed to keep the pace with champions Belfast Celtic's relentless pace throughout the campaign.
It was to mark the beginning of the end for the Island's golden era, as in April 1927 the club had requested financial assistance from the Irish Football Association ' as they struggled to meet the demands of staying competitive in the league on such a small, albeit loyal, fanbase. A number of the team's key players began an exodus out of Pirrie Park in the summer of 1927, and speculation grew into August that John may be another, having failed to agree terms until November with the season well underway, having also being strongly linked with a transfer to league newcomers, Coleraine. Veteran campaigner Gough was a stand-out performer in an otherwise difficult season for the club, who finished twelfth (from 14) in the Irish League and narrowly avoided having to apply for re-election.
After six successful seasons with Queen's Island, the 32-year-old goalkeeper left for a new challenge with the Irish League's newcomers, Ballymena in August 1928. Gough game in for the club's third game, replacing William Clarke between the sticks for his debut in the 3-3 draw with Coleraine on 1 September. John retained his jersey for the remaining 44 consecutive games of the landmark 1928/1929 as the 'Ballymena Babes' stunned local football by defeating League Champions Belfast Celtic to win the Irish Cup final in March 1929 to huge acclaim. The Braidmen also finished sixth in the league standings and runners-up in the City Cup competition.
The following 1929/1930 season, Ballymena continued to build on their early success with the veteran custodian the first choice as the team went one place better by finishing fifth in the table. Ballymena failed to retain the Irish Cup, losing in the showpiece final 4-3 to a Linfield team inspired by Joe Bambrick. In the summer of 1930, John was retained as a professional by the club for a prospective third season but failed to agree terms with the Showgrounds club. Despite interest from other senior clubs, the club committee held firm on desired the £25 transfer fee for the 34 year-old for the majority of the 1930/1931 season ' effectively keeping him out of football during that time.
Club and player agreed a release from his registration in March 1931 and despite speculation that he would join up with Summerfield, the renowned Intermediate side from Ballymena of the time ' John had played his last competitive game in the Irish League. Despite the unceremonious exit from the club, Gough was fondly remembered as a key part of the famous 1929 Irish Cup winning side, who made a total of 83 appearances for Ballymena.
John's association with the town was far from over. In 1932 he was appointed the manager of the Ballymena branch of coal merchants J. Milligan & Co. and two years later during the formation of the new Ballymena United club, he was duly elected onto the committee and subsequently formed part of the team's selection committee during the 1934/1935 season.
John Gough passed away in Canada in late 1960, just short of his 65th birthday.
(1919) Brantwood; (Aug 1922) Everton - Trial; (Nov 1922) Queen's Island; (Aug 1928) Ballymena
Intermediate League: (winner) 1920/1921; (runner-up) 1921/1922
Steel & Sons Cup: (winner) 1920/1921; (finalist) 1919/1920
R. Clements Lyttle Cup: (runner-up) 1921/1922
(with Queen's Island)
Irish League: (winner) 1923/1924; (runner-up) 1922/1923, 1924/1925, 1926/1927
Irish Cup: (winner) 1923/1924
City Cup: (winner) 1922/1923, 1923/1924, 1924/1925; (runner-up) 1925/1926
County Antrim Shield: (winner) 1923/1924
Gold Cup: (finalist) 1924/1925
Irish Cup: (winner) 1928/1929; (runner-up) 1929/1930
City Cup: (runner-up) 1928/1929
Ireland (1 cap - 1924)
Irish League Representative (2 caps - 1921-1924)
Last updated: 8 October 2021