James Kirkwood Player Profile

Player Details

  • Full Name: James Kirkwood
  • Born: December 5th, 1895 (Belfast)
  • Died: July 28th, 1968 (Lisburn)
  • Position: Half back
  • Signed: June 14th, 1929
  • First Manager: Selection Committee
  • Left Club: May 23rd, 1930
  • Career Totals: 3 appearances
  • Also Played For: Glentoran, Willowfield

Playing History

Season Win % Draw % Loss %
1929-1930 3 0 0 0 0.0% 33.3% 66.7%
Totals: 3 (0) 0

 Apps = First Team Appearances (Sub Appearances) | Gls = Goals
 GtGR = Goals to Games Ratio | W/D/L - Games won, drawn or lost as percentage of games played in
 Yel = Yellow Cards/Cautions | Red = Red Cards/Dismissals

 Recent First Team Starts
 23/11/29 Irish League vs. Portadown (A) 3 - 5
 24/08/29 Irish League vs. Newry (A) 0 - 2
 21/08/29 Irish League vs. Portadown (H) 2 - 2

 Recent First Team Goals

 List of Goals Scored

 List of Games Played (click to expand)
 23/11/29 Irish League vs. Portadown (A)  3 - 5
 24/08/29 Irish League vs. Newry (A)  0 - 2
 21/08/29 Irish League vs. Portadown (H)  2 - 2


Experienced stalwart of Intermediate football, James Kirkwood was an Irish Cup winner by the time he arrived at the Showgrounds for a short spell in the summer of 1929.

Born of the Ballysillan area of Belfast in 1895, James’ footballing career took off to the backdrop of the First World War after signing for Glentoran in September 1916. The 20-year-old played the first half of the 1916/1917 season in the Seconds, before eventually making a senior bow against Belfast United in the City Cup competition in January 1917.

It would be the first of six appearances in the back line for the East Belfast side in a season that saw Glentoran conquer the majority of the domestic trophies available; the Belfast & District League, the Irish Cup, Gold Cup and City Cup all ended up back at the Oval in Kirkwood’s first campaign.

Kirkwood found it difficult to break into the Glentoran starting eleven over the following two seasons but became a key member of the equally successful Glens second string in Intermediate circles: winning back-to-back Intermediate League and Intermediate Cup titles in 1917/1918 and 1918/1919, alongside winning the Steel Sons Cup in the latter of the two seasons. His form also subsequently earned international recognition with selection for the Ireland Junior team in April 1918, as the Irish lost 1-0 to Scotland at Firhill Park in Glasgow in front of 7,000 fans.

Following the end of the War and the resumption of the Irish League, a third consecutive Intermediate League title with Glentoran II followed in 1919/1920, as 23-year-old James forced his way back into the fringes of the Glentoran first-team with ten appearances across two seasons. In January 1921, he also represented the Intermediate League for the first time in an Inter-League match against their Scottish counterparts.

Kirkwood sought pastures new in the summer of 1921, the talented centre-half moved across East Belfast to join Willowfield who had just elected to join the Intermediate League. After defeats in the finals of the McElroy Cup and Clements Lyttle Cup during the 1922/1923 season, Kirkwood got his hands on the Intermediate Cup for the third time in his career – his first trophy with his new club.

After six years without selection – he returned to the Junior international panel with Ireland in March 1924 and won a further seven caps over the next four seasons. The most memorable of which was his goalscoring exploits at Solitude in March 1927, when James scored the opener and captained the side to a 3-2 victory over Wales in his native North Belfast.

30-year-old Kirkwood was also now captaining his club side also and led his side to the runners-up spot in the Intermediate League in 1926/1927. He was the forerunner to one of the most remarkable seasons ever achieved in Irish Football by an Intermediate club the following year – as Willowfield conquered all before them in the 1927/1928 campaign.

Aided by Dickie Shaw and William Kimlin, who would both turn out for Ballymena a few years later, captain Kirkwood lifted the Intermediate League, the Intermediate Cup and the Steel and Sons Cup. However, it was the Irish Cup that proved to be the crown jewel in Willowfield’s quadruple trophy success as they defeated senior club Larne in the final following a replay at Windsor Park in April 1928.

Working as a plant fitter, James’ work took him south into the newly formed Republic of Ireland for work, which led him to miss matches in the 1928/1929 season for Willowfield and miss out on adding to his tally of Junior International caps. Kirkwood played eight seasons at Gibson Park

It would be his eighth and final season at Gibson Park, for in June 1929, having won every honour the Intermediate game had to offer he made a surprise move back for a final crack at senior football with Irish Cup winners Ballymena. On the advice of former Willowfield secretary Sam McDowell, he moved to the Showgrounds as the Braidmen sought to find a replacement for departed centre half John Reid. Despite starting the opening two games of the 1929/1930 Irish League season, he only managed one further appearance in November in an underwhelming return to the league.

It proved to be an unceremonious end to Kirkwood’s football career as he was released with little fanfare in the summer of 1930 and failed to reengage with any other club, now aged 34.

The family connection to football remained though, as his brother Bobby was trainer at Cliftonville during the 1960’s. James remained in Belfast and eventually passed away in Purdysburn Hospital in July 1968, aged 72.

(Sep 1916) Glentoran; (Aug 1921) Willowfield; (Jun 1929) Ballymena

(with Glentoran II)
Intermediate League: (winner) 1917/1918, 1918/1919, 1919/1920
Intermediate Cup: (winner) 1917/1918
Steel and Sons Cup: (winner) 1918/1919; (finalist) 1917/1918
McElroy Cup: (winner) 1917/1918
(with Willowfield)
Irish Cup: (winner) 1927/1928;
Intermediate League: (winner) 1927/1928; (runner-up) 1926/1927
Intermediate Cup: (winner) 1922/1923, 1927/1928
Steel and Sons Cup: (winner) 1927/1928
Clements Lyttle Cup: (finalist) 1922/1923
McElroy Cup: (finalist) 1922/1923, 1927/1928

International Honours
Ireland Junior International (8 caps, 1 goal – 1918-1928)

Last updated: 28 December 2023


August 21st, 1929
Portadown 2 - 2 Ballymena United

League (Irish League)


  • Date of Birth

    James was born on this date in Belfast.

  • Signed For Ballymena United

  • Last Appearance - Portadown 5 - 3 Ballymena

  • Left Club

  • Date of Death