Dundee Football Club was saddened to learn of the death of former player George O’Hara last week. George’s forward play in the 1950’s saw him score 23 goals with his most memorable counter coming in the game immortalised by the Johnny Scobbie song of Dundee beating Dundee United 7-3 in 1956.
George played 72 games for the Dee over three seasons during a period when the club were in a transition from the trophy winning era managed by George Anderson to the rebuilding of a younger vibrant team under Willie Thornton that would lay the foundations for the league championship title in 1962. Pat Liney, Bobby Cox, Alex Hamilton, Andy Penman, Alan Cousin and Hugh Robertson were all team mates and made their debuts during George’s time at Dens.
Glaswegian George Anderson O’Hara was born in 1933 and grew up in a football daft family with three brothers as company. His brother Eddie played for his local YMCA then juvenile side Ferndale he joined his sibling into the junior ranks with Shettleston in the east end of Glasgow. It was at Greenfield Park both players drew admiring glances from senior clubs. In April 1955 Eddie signed for Falkirk and four months later Dundee boss Willie Thornton stole a march on Partick Thistle and Motherwell the day before they were due to hold signing talks with George and secured the inside left for Dens Park. Still completing his National Service in the army he would have to wait his time to make his dark blue debut.
Dundee had agreed, like most senior clubs at the time, not to call up their junior signing until their side had been knocked out of the Scottish Junior Cup so George remained with Shettleston until they succumbed to Ardeer Thistle on 3rd January 1956. Four days later George made his reserve debut at Dens against Rangers ‘A’ and the 3,500 crowd left the game with his name on their lips after the new signing had made his bow scoring a hat-trick in a 4-2 win. He was immediately called up to the first team the following week but there was no dream repeat as Dundee lost 2-0 to Hearts at Dens. Still serving in the army, he scored his first goal in only his second first team start the following month at Raith Rovers. It was his first of five in thirteen competitive games in his first season that also saw him score the final goal in a 5-1 win over Manchester United at Dens in April 1956. It was a promising start to his Dundee career and did not go unnoticed.
After only a few months he was being compared by supporters to the legendary Billy Steel who had walked out on the Dundee in May 1954. Like Steel, he played at inside left, he had the same self confidence and ability to strike for goal from any distance. Still only 20 he was happy to take responsibility always looking for the ball.
Demobbed for the start of the 1956-57 season George remained part-time serving his apprenticeship as a printer in Glasgow but this did not deter him helping the team to reach the League Cup semi final in October after beating Dundee United 8-5 on aggregate with George on the score sheet. He was also on target in the semi final replay at Ibrox against Partick Thistle but sadly it was not enough as the Dark Blues went down 3-2. The run to the league cup semi final was the highlight of the season for the team as although league position had improved from thirteenth to tenth they were only two more points better off than last season. In January George’s performances were recognised with a reserve selection for the Scotland U-23 trial v Rangers.
Dundee’s poor league form was attributed to the number of part-time players at Dens at the time, including George, but by the start of the following season he had completed his printing apprenticeship and turned full-time footballer.
The move to full-time football did not bring the expected benefits for George although he did score a hat-trick in a 5-0 win over Partick Thistle in November. However within three weeks and only four goals to his name he made way for a young Davie Sneddon who like him had also emerged from the west of Scotland junior ranks (Kilwinning Rangers). Appearances were few and far between thereafter and at the end of the season with the young Davie Sneddon now established, George was put on the open to transfer list valued at £1,500.
Southend met Dundee’s valuation and in July 1958 George was on his way to the south of England but his tenure was brief and having only played one reserve game he returned to Scottish football three months later with Queen of the South. He ended his professional career with Queen’s in 1960.
He went on to play in South Africa and Canada where he turned out for the White Eagles Polish and Canadian Soccer Club. When he returned to Glasgow he lived in Maryhill for the remainder of his life.
Our thoughts are with George’s family and friends at this sad time.