Jim McDermott: A tribute by Club Historian Bartley Ramsay

Jim McDermott 1948 to 1974: A tribute by Bartley Ramsay 50 years on from his passing

It is hard to believe that this is the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Jim McDermott.   Jim who hailed from the city of Derry signed for Finn Harps in July 1969 from Portadown for a reported fee of £450 when he was twenty-one.   Jim was the second professional footballer signed for the club, the late Brian Wright being the first.  Jim had previously played for his hometown club, Derry City. 

Jim McDermott

Jim quickly became a mainstay of the team and a fan favourite with the crowd at Finn Park for his whole-hearted midfield displays.  It was “Slim” as he was nicknamed by his teammates, who scored the winning goal against Shelbourne in August 1969 to earn their first win in the League of Ireland.  In March 1970, Jim was attracting the attention of Bristol City, but nothing came of that interest.

Jim made 157 appearances for Finn Harps, scoring 24 times. He was selected by the League of Ireland to play against Liverpool in 1970.  His final act for Finn Harps was playing and scoring in a 7-1 win over Home Farm on Sunday 27 January 1974.

In what was a double tragedy Jim and his neighbour Sean Gallagher, died when a tree toppled onto the Finn Harps minibus being driven by McDermott in the early hours of the morning on the 28th of January 1974. Jim was leaving home his babysitter after a night out with his wife. Jim was survived by his wife Nuala and son Neil.

Fran Fields, the then Chairman of Finn Harps said at the time “I am shattered by the news, I really do not know what to say. It is hard to take this new in. Jim was a very popular fella and a fine player. This will be a dreadful blow to all his team colleagues.”  

Patsy McGowan, then Finn Harps manager said “We are all terribly shocked about Jim’s death.  We will all miss him. He was a dedicated footballer and one of the characters of the game.  Jim had a record unequalled by any other player in the club. He had never been dropped in all the time with us and was a tremendous player in training. On behalf of the club and players, I would extend my sincerest sympathy to Jim’s wife and family. His death is a very hard blow to us all.”

Tributes from the time can be found below: