Sandy (Sandra) McPherson
The late twenties were truly the golden era of Shelbourne football, replacing the yellow era and preceding the much-vaunted dusky pink era. This remarkable team swept all before them, thanks to a job lot of brooms that the Chairman acquired at a knock down price. But the truth, if it were known, is even more amazing than the statistics tell.
There is only one picture of this famous team still in existence. It is painted on the altar of the 15th century Chapel of St. Tommy the Right Half in Verona and the guidebooks will tell you that it depicts the team at the post-match meal after clinching the League in 1928.
But look closely at that figure to the left of the centre-forward Jesus (The Jeezer) O’Malley. Notice the slightly effeminate features, the long hair and the hint of a bosom? Notice how the shape between their two bodies and the jar of mustard in Jesus’s hand perfectly forms the letter G for Girlie?
Football historians are today convinced that Sandy (or Sandra) McPherson, the long-haired midfield general of one of the most successful League of Ireland teams ever, was in fact a woman. They frequently point to her lack of understanding of the offside law and her disinclination to swop shirts at the end of the match as evidence of this, though they are constantly told that it is rude to point.
Certainly, if Sandy was a person of the female persuasion, her team mates have remained remarkably tight-lipped, and indeed tight-buttocked, about the whole affair, which may or may not have anything to do with the celebrations in the communal bath after matches.
There was at the time a certain puzzlement among the football fraternity over Manager Harry Carbuncle’s insistence on kissing Sandy full on the lips whenever he was substituted, a practice that never seemed to translate to the rest of his players. Carbuncle, a dyed in the wool card-carrying member of the Macho Society, denied that there was anything improper in the relationship.
Of course, this was a completely different Ireland than the one we know today. The country had not got over the sight of Countess Markievicz in a pair of combat trousers and many people insisted that instead of gadding about Dail Eireann, she should buy herself a nice frock and do some traditional dancing at thoroughfare intersections. The idea of a woman in tight shorts was unthinkable, except to young men.
But was Sandy in fact Sandra?
What can be said for certain is that there was a veritable queue of players trying to sign for the Reds during this period, often willing to take a large pay cut for the honour of donning the famous shirt. Even at the time, the rumour mill was in full swing, which is not something that you normally expect of a mill.
On the field, Sandy was a tigerish midfielder, though he didn’t have stripes down his flank or big teeth. (For the purposes of this article, I will continue to refer to Sandy in the masculine) He loved nothing more than getting stuck in to the opposition centre half and if truth be told, the opposition centre half often relished the prospect of getting stuck into him.
In all, Sandy played for the Reds for ten seasons, (some of them concurrently,) scoring twenty three goals, despite being marked more closely than a lot of his fellow professionals. It was these goals that live most in the memory of his team mates, with the somewhat exuberant celebrations sometimes lasting a full 15 minutes before he could be extricated from the bottom of a pile of players, both from his own team and the opposition.
Many consider it a travesty of justice that he was never called up for full international duties, though this may have been down to Ireland manager Walter Wobblebottom, who famously declared, to raised eyebrows, that he had “never really fancied Sandy as a player.”
Sandy was forced to retire at the end of the 1931-32 system due to an abnormal growth in his stomach, which historians maintain turned out to be his daughter, William. After leaving the club, he appears to have disappeared from the pages of history, though he occasionally turns up in the pages of cookery and political science.