Alfie Hale

Alfie Hale was born in Waterford in August 1939, and as a member of a family that already had a proven track record in League of Ireland football (his father and three uncles had all played for Waterford in the 1930s), he was accepted into the ranks of Waterford F.C. at the age of 16. The diminutive but dynamic forward was given his League of Ireland debut in March of 1957, scoring in a 3-1 win over Bohemians, a game that also saw another future Waterford and Ireland star, Peter Fitzgerald, scoring on his debut. When older brother George signed for Cork Hibernians for the 1957-58 season, Alfie Hale followed suit, but having been given little or no opportunity to impress, he returned to his hometown to spend the rest of the season in junior football, before re-signing for Waterford F.C. in time for the beginning of the 1958-59 campaign.

The centre-forward made a huge impact in his first season back, helping the club to victory in the League of Ireland Shield (he finished as the club’s top league goalscorer the same season, with 18 goals; another brother, Richard ‘Dixie’ Hale, scored seven), and his absence from the F.A.I. Cup final (and subsequent replay) through injury was cited as a major reason for the team’s unexpected loss to St. Patrick’s Athletic. Continuing to impress after his recovery (he hit hat-tricks in his inter-league debut against the Hessen League, and in an Olympic qualifier against Holland), Hale was signed by Aston Villa for £4,500 in June 1960, and although he made only seven first team appearances (scoring two goals) for the Birmingham club during the following two seasons, he was handed a first full international cap (he had previously represented his country at schoolboy, youth and amateur levels) for Ireland in a 3-2 friendly defeat by Austria in April 1962. He signed for Doncaster Rovers soon afterwards, and went on to score 42 goals in 119 league appearances (receiving three further international caps in European championship ties with Iceland and Spain), before transferring to Newport County in time for the 1965-66 season.

Hale scored 21 goals in 34 league appearances for the Welsh outfit, before returning to his native Waterford at the end of the season, where the local team had just secured their first ever League of Ireland title. Although the club slipped to fifth in 1967, Hale’s good form during the campaign did see him recalled to the Irish international team, albeit briefly, for another European championship encounter against Spain. The next three seasons would prove to be fantastic for Hale and his club, with the league trophy coming to Kilcohan Park at the end of each of those campaigns. He finished as the club’s top scorer in 1968, joint-top scorer in 1969, and as player-manager in the 1969-70 season, scored 12 important goals in his last 13 league matches. Meanwhile, a substitute appearance for the Irish national side in a friendly against Poland in May of 1968 saw Hale register his first senior international goal, and winning three more caps before the end of the year, he scored a second goal in another friendly against Austria in November (Hale would win five more international caps before the end of 1973, bringing his total to 14).

Waterford missed out on a historic “four-in-a-row” in 1971 by just one point, but Hale and his club regained the championship in dramatic circumstances the following year, coming from two goals down to defeat rivals Cork Hibernians 3-2 in the last match of the season. Hale scored in the Flower Lodge encounter (with a header; he scored a surprisingly large amount of goals with his head) to draw level with Hibs’ Tony Marsden on 22 goals, and finish the season as the League of Ireland’s joint-top goalscorer. Collecting a fifth league-winner’s medal in 1972-73, he again had to share the season’s goalscoring accolades, this time with Finn Harps’ Terry Harkin (both finished with 20 league strikes). Financial difficulties at Waterford forced them to sell Hale to Munster rivals Cork Celtic midway through the 1973-74 season, and he picked up yet another League of Ireland championship medal at the end of that campaign. Taking over as player-manager of Celtic for much of the following season, he joined up with St. Patrick’s Athletic in the summer of 1975, before moving on to Limerick F.C. for the 1976-77 season. Leaving the league scene for a number of years, Hale re-surfaced as player-manager of the doomed Thurles Town for the 1981-82 season, where he made history by becoming (at 42) the League of Ireland's oldest ever goalscorer, and also the only player to score in four different League of Ireland decades.

Taking over as the first manager of the newly-renamed Waterford United in 1982, he led the club to victory in the League Cup in 1985, and reached an F.A.I. Cup final in 1986, losing to the all-conquering Shamrock Rovers. Taking charge of Cobh Ramblers in 1988, he was unable to prevent them from being relegated from the Premier Division, and resigned his position in September 1989 (Hale had, however, introduced one Roy Keane to the Ramblers squad). Hale later renewed acquaintances with Waterford United, and led them to promotion to the top flight in the 1991-92 season at the expense of the Cobh outfit. As manager of Kilkenny City, Hale called upon the services of several of his former Waterford charges (including his son Richie) in guiding the Cats to the 1997 First Division championship. A poor season in the top flight saw Kilkenny being relegated the following year, but as was the case with his native Waterford, Hale’s legendary status amongst the city’s football fans had already been secured.

1 comment:

  1. Richard is not his son. .He is his nephew. ..son of the late Harry Hale