Peter Corr: Winning in Blue — and Green — at Goodison Park

Four decades before The Corrs made their musical breakthrough in the British and Irish pop charts, their uncle was an Irish international and Everton footballer. Less appreciated is his role in bringing Howard Kendall to the Toffees.

Rob Sawyer 28/07/2023 16comments  |  Jump to last
Doreen and Peter Corr

Doreen and Peter Corr

Andrea, Caroline, Sharon and Jim Corr — performing as The Corrs — were a mainstay of the British and Irish pop charts in the late 1990s and 2000s. They continue to perform for their many fans. But four decades before their musical breakthrough, their uncle was an Irish international and Everton footballer. Less appreciated is his role in bringing Howard Kendall to the Toffees.

Born on 23 June 1923, Peter Corr grew up in Dundalk, close to the border with Northern Ireland. A prodigiously gifted young sportsman, he excelled at Gaelic Football, developing into a brilliant minor at Louth. The price of his talent was being targeted by opponents in matches. In the 1943 All-Ireland semi-final, a shock defeat for Louth to Roscommon, he took a (deliberate) off-the-ball whack to the back of head, and, concussed, was ‘seeing stars’ - his words - for half of the match. It made him question his participation in the sport: ‘I loved playing Gaelic, but as my reputation grew, so did the attention I received. So, in the end I asked myself what the point was of getting kicked to death on the field.’

Persistent approaches from Sam Prole, manager of Dundalk FC saw him go against rule no. 27 of the GAA (which forbade participation in ‘foreign’ sports such as rugby, soccer and cricket) – and against the wishes of his father. After less than 20 outings as a soccer player in the 1946-47 season, his blistering performances on the right wing drew English club scouts to Oriel Park. Everton made overtures but could not agree a fee. Hull City, Arsenal, Bolton and Middlesbrough were also in the hunt, but Preston North End got their man.

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No less than Tom Finney was barring the rookie Irishman’s path to the first team, so he made a modest three appearances on the wing. Having suffered a bad ankle injury which was feared to be career-ending, he was released by the Lilywhites. Home in Dundalk for the summer, he benefitted from a rudimentary but effective form of hydrotherapy: ’For three months I worked with the fisherman on the quay and kept the ankle in the water as much as possible.’

Everton team 1848-49

Everton team with Peter front left

Everton FC toured Ireland in the spring of 1948 kicking off with a match against Dundalk on 9 May. The fit-again winger got a run out for his hometown team in that friendly match. The club had kept tabs on his progress at Deepdale and, clearly impressed in the friendly match, offered him a contract. Preston recouped their £2,500 outlay, to release his registration, so everyone was happy. He initially lodged in Liverpool with Ellen McCrave, who also had Peter Farrell and Tommy Eglington in her digs, but returned to residing in Preston 1949 when he married Doreen Melling (brilliantly funny, by all accounts Doreen would have been right at home on stage in music hall). In the years that followed, the couple had two sons and two daughters.

In all, Peter made 24 appearances for the Toffees, scoring two goals. He would find himself in a struggling side but still lined up alongside his compatriots Alex Stevenson, Tommy Eglington and Peter Farrell - plus the great T G Jones Another clubmate was Harry Catterick, with whom Peter struck up a close lifelong friendship. In only his second outing, he scored at Goodison against Sheff Utd. Pilot described it for the Evening Express: ‘Jones whipped the ball through to Bentham, who made ground to draw Cox, and then he pushed the ball diagonally for Corr to race in and drive the ball low into the far corner of the net with his right foot from just inside the penalty area. This was a grand goal, perfectly executed and making a grand start for Corr.’

Peter’s greatest moment at Goodison Park came not in royal blue, but in the green shirt of Ireland, on 21 September 1949. His third cap was earned in a friendly match against England. Irish preparation for the fixture was minimal – in fact, there was no preparation! Peter came down by train from Preston on the morning of the match, accompanied by his mother-in-law (who fancied sampling the shops in Liverpool’s city centre) and Tom Finney. He then met his teammates in the changing room at Goodison Park.

Captain Johnny Carey knew that he would have more than his hands full marking Finney, so he had devised a plan. Every time England got the ball, Peter was to stand between Carey and Finney – cutting out the supply line along the ground that Finney thrived on. Instead, most passes to Finney had to be lofted over Peter - this gave the Irish men time to get their tackles in before the English maestro got the ball under control. Finney went on to have his least-effective international match and Ireland went on to win 2-0 through goals by Con Martin (penalty) and Peter Farrell. The 11 Irishmen became the first foreign side to defeat England on home soil.

Peter Corr's Ireland cap and jersey

Left: The Ireland Cap Peter earned for matches against England and Sweden; Right: Peter's shirt

Ireland team that defeated England at Goodison Park

The Ireland team that defeated England at Goodison Park

Peter’s brother, Willie, recalls the low-key aftermath: ‘After the match, Peter had a shower, picked up his kit, said his goodbyes to teammates and got the train back to Preston with his mother-in-law. No hyped-up celebrations in those days – just playing football, winning and making a little bit of history at the same time. Peter recalled it thus: ‘It was the biggest thrill of my life. Playing for the Republic was always a great honour. It was a day when our pride was as big as our hearts.’

Peter Corr of Preston NE

Peter in his Preston days

Willie Corr recalls the pride in having a famous footballing brother: ‘I never saw my brother play football, there was 15 years between us, but we had lots of chats when he came home to Dundalk every year. It was great knowing him. He always dropped off his international jerseys, with number seven on, with me. I used to go out and play in football in the street wearing it, but I was a target – there were some dirty tackles going in!’

Having lost his place at Everton in the autumn of 1949, Peter was one of the players deemed surplus to requirements at the season’s end, He joined ex-Blues Norman Greenhalgh and Cecil Wyles at Bangor City, competing in the Cheshire League). Bangor could offer Peter a two-year deal with a decent wage and free lodgings, so it was a more attractive prospect than joining a lower ranking Football League club. In his second season he picked up an ankle injury and lost his place in the side. Transfer-listed at his own request, he moved to Wigan Athletic in the summer of 1952. By Christmas 1953 he was turning out for Morecambe but seems to have hung up his boots early the next year. Looking back in the 1970s, he was modest about his ability and achievements: ‘I was never a great player. Coming into the game late, and from another code, I hadn’t the technical ability of others. But I really enjoyed those years.’

He was offered the opportunity to manage in Ireland, but having settled in Preston with his family, he preferred to stay put. Life after football was in the newsagent business. He initially worked in partnership with Frank O’Farrell at a shop close to Deepdale, until the Preston wing-half moved to the south coast. After that he went it alone, while Doreen ran a hardware business. One enduring connection to football was some coaching Peter did for the Catholic Colleges in Preston.

Peter Corr and family

Left: Peter with his sons; Right: With his parents

With Harry Catterick installed as Everton manager in 1961, Peter did a spot of scouting for his friend and repeatedly extolled the virtues of Preston’s young wing-half. Of course, Catterick was well aware of Howard Kendall, but Peter’s constant advocacy helped convince him to make a firm bid in 1967. Peter would be a regular at Goodison in the 1960s and 1970s, going to the 1966 and 1968 FA Cup Finals, and taking his son, Fran, to see the title being clinched on 1 April 1970. Regular visitors to the Catterick’s home in Ainsdale, the Corrs stayed there for the weekend of the 1971 Open Golf Championship, which staged on the adjacent Royal Birkdale course. The father and son duo were still attending occasion matches into the 1980s, including the FA Cup semi-final against West Ham.

In later life, Peter sold his business but ran a newsagents on someone else’s behalf. In 1999, with other surviving members of the 1949 Irish team which beat England, he was given a Hall of Fame award by the FAI. Sadly, his final years were spent living with the effects of dementia. Peter Corr – international footballer, proud Irishman and Evertonian – passed away in his adopted hometown on 1 June 2001.

Acknowledgements and Sources

Fran, Peter and Willie Corr
The Everton Encyclopedia
Football Association of Ireland: 75 years (Peter Byrne)
Newspapers including: Liverpool Evening Express, Liverpool Echo, Evening Herald, The Argus, The Irish Times,

Reader Comments (16)

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John McFarlane Snr
1 Posted 28/07/2023 at 17:14:15
Hi Rob, thanks for the memories, I can't remember my first game at Goodison, but I know that it was sometime in 1948, and I can recall Peter Corr playing down the right wing, from my spec' in the Boys Pen.
Danny O’Neill
2 Posted 28/07/2023 at 20:09:46
I know there has always been a link between Everton and Ireland, but never realised there was one between Everton and The Corrs, who performed some great songs.

We should play one or two in the build-up to matches at the new stadium.

When I was in Northern Ireland, I served in South Armagh in places such as Crossmaglen and Forkhill. When they put us on the hilltops, with binoculars, we could see into Dundalk and watch the Horse Racing and run an unofficial bookies!

Crossmaglen, from the sangers, we could watch the Gaelic Football. I've never really understood that sport but Seamus played it before football I guess.

Shane Corcoran
3 Posted 28/07/2023 at 20:58:16
Great stuff. My Dad is from Dundalk and my friend's late father is called Peter Corr so funny to read this.

Danny, there's not much to understand but needless to say you weren't there to learn about it.

Paul Birmingham
4 Posted 28/07/2023 at 21:31:16
Superb Rob, great story.
Thank you.
Darragh Farrell
5 Posted 28/07/2023 at 21:37:40
I enjoyed that, many thanks Rob. I have family from Dundalk from around that time. The Everton links to Ireland in the '40s and '50s are what led to my father supporting them, like many others I'm sure.

Also interesting to note that Peter would have played against future TD Jack McQuillan in that All-Ireland semi-final in 1943. A fascinating character in his own right.

Tony Everan
6 Posted 28/07/2023 at 21:59:43
Thanks Rob, enjoyed reading this. I bet our captain would be interested in the story.
Don Alexander
7 Posted 28/07/2023 at 22:15:31
Danny (#2), huge respect to you and all servicemen/women but my somewhat dark humour can't help but notice that you were deployed in the ominously named "Forkhill" – a grim name for the years of The Troubles.

And thanks to Rob too, his diligence produces very readable history given the shite we've had to endure for nigh on 30 years.

Bill Watson
8 Posted 28/07/2023 at 22:35:33
Thanks Rob.

I like The Corrs but had no idea they had a family connection to the Blues!

Mike Hanlon
9 Posted 28/07/2023 at 22:36:36
Thank you Rob for another superb article! As Darragh (#5) says, for me, like many, the Irish connection dating back so far led to me and all my family becoming Blues.

In line with Danny's comment (#2), it'd be great to see The Corrs perform at the opening of the new stadium. If the Club haven't already done it, they should reach out to them and publicise the connection.

Dave Abrahams
10 Posted 28/07/2023 at 23:52:31
I remember Peter Corr from my early days watching the Blues but I would have said he played a lot more than 24 games for the Blues, that surprised me.

He along with Farrell, Eglington, Stevenson and later O'Neil, Clinton, Cummings, Donavon and Sutherland were possibly the reason there were lots of priests watching the Blues in the 1950s.

Danny O’Neill
11 Posted 29/07/2023 at 07:32:12
We could write to the club on the back of this article, Mike.

I did so to inquire if there was a possibility to get Brian Murray's brother John, the original Everton Mascot, on the pitch with the team last season as a gesture to his years of following Everton.


I got a bland and templated response explaining that there is a process for selecting a mascot and a link on how to apply.

I guess the "computer says no" missed my point.

Joe McMahon
12 Posted 29/07/2023 at 07:47:38
A super read Rob, and yes few would displace Tom Finney. Also we have a link to The Corrs, a fine band.
Peter Mills
13 Posted 29/07/2023 at 09:33:02
I enjoyed your article, as usual, Rob.

It would have been interesting to have been party to the Howard Kendall signing, given that he was seemingly destined for Liverpool before Harry Catterick quietly stepped in.

David Kennedy
14 Posted 29/07/2023 at 17:10:29
There's been a few converts from Gaelic football. Jack Kirwan (the first manager of Ajax I believe!), Valentine Harris, Peter Corr, and most recently Seamus Coleman.
Shane Corcoran
15 Posted 30/07/2023 at 13:56:40
David and Danny,

I see BBC2 in all regions are showing the All Ireland final this afternoon. Should be a cracker.

Mike Hanlon
16 Posted 30/07/2023 at 23:02:03
Great and valiant effort Danny (#11). In dealings I’ve had with Everton over the years, often the people at ‘grassroots level’ are brilliant and try to help; but other times (and especially on the commercial / marketing side), the powers that be are completely totally out of touch. Like with our support though, we’ll never give up trying!

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