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Thomas Aherne (26 January 1919, Limerickmarker, Irelandmarker – 30 December 1999, Lutonmarker, Englandmarker), also referred to as Bud Aherne, is a former Irish footballer and hurler. He played football for Belfast Celtic and Luton Town and was a dual internationalist, playing for both Ireland teams – the IFA XI and the FAI XI. In 1949 he was a member of the FAI XI that defeated England 2–0 at Goodison Parkmarker, becoming the first non-UKmarker team to beat England at home. As a hurler he also played one game for Limerick.

After retiring as a player Aherne settled in Lutonmarker where he coached the Luton Town youth team, worked in the local car industry and ran a very successful licensed premises. He also continued to visit Limerickmarker regularly and remained healthy and active until he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in the mid-1990s. He died in December 1999 at the age of 80 and was survived by his wife Eileen two sons, Pat and Brian and three daughters Maura, Trisha and Catherine.

Club career

Early years

As a youth, Aherne initially emerged as a prominent hurler with Treaty Sarsfields and also played one game for Limerick. However he subsequently decided to concentrate on football and began his senior career with Limerick United where his team mates included Davy Walsh. During the Second World War, Aherne served in the Irish Army and was stationed at Crosshavenmarker. His impressive performances in the League of Ireland attracted attention and in 1946 he was signed by Belfast Celtic.

Belfast Celtic

While at Belfast Celtic, Aherne played alongside Jackie Vernon, Billy McMillan, Robin Lawler and Johnny Campbell and helped them win the Irish Cup in 1947 and an Irish League title in 1948. Aherne was also at Celtic during the infamous Boxing Day riot which broke out during a game against local rivals Linfield. Within a few months, Aherne had left Celtic and signed for Luton Town. However in May 1949, Aherne temporarily rejoined Celtic for their final tour before the club disbanded. Together with McMillan, Campbell, Lawlor, guest player Mick O'Flanagan and manager Elisha Scott, he went on the Celtic tour of the North America. The highlight of the 10 game tour came on May 29 when Celtic beat the reigning British champions, Scotland, 2–0.

Luton Town

Aherne signed for Luton Town in March 1949 for a fee of £6,000 and made his English League debut on March 19 in a 2–1 away defeat to Tottenham Hotspur. Despite the fact he was over 30 when he joined Luton, he quickly established himself as a regular. Aherne played competitive football into his late thirties and was an ever present during the 1954–55 season when Luton won promotion to Division One. After playing 288 games for Luton, including 267 in the league, he only retired after a hairline fracture of the ankle ended his career. Even then he continued to play for a local league team, Luton Celtic, into his forties.

Irish international

When Aherne began his international career in 1946 there were in effect, two Ireland teams, chosen by two rival associations. Both associations, the Belfastmarker-based Irish Football Association and the Dublinmarker-based Football Association of Ireland, claimed jurisdiction over the whole of Irelandmarker and selected players from the whole island. As a result several notable Irish players from this era, including Aherne played for both teams.


Between 1946 and 1953 Aherne made 16 appearances for the FAI XI. He made his FAI debut in June 1946 during an Iberianmarker tour, playing in both the 3–1 defeat to Portugal on 16 June and then helping the FAI XI gain a surprise 1–0 victory against Spain on 23 June. He remained a regular in the FAI XI throughout the late 1940s and early 1950s and featured prominently in the qualifying rounds for the 1950 World Cup. On 21 September 1949, together with Con Martin, Johnny Carey and Peter Farrell, he was also a member of the FAI XI that defeated England 2–0 at Goodison Parkmarker, becoming the first non-UKmarker team to beat England at home.

On 16 November 1953, during a 1–1 draw with France, Aherne briefly became involved in controversy. Although only a friendly, the game quickly became heated and at one point, Aherne chased Raymond Kopa down the tunnel after play had been stopped for a foul. Kopa allegedly ran for his life after upsetting Aherne once too often. The FAI selectors were not impressed and Aherne was told a repeat would end his international career. As it turned out he made only one more appearance for the FAI XI. That came on 4 October 1953 in 5–3 defeat against France during a qualifier for the 1954 FIFA World Cup.


Between 1946 and 1950, Aherne also made 6 appearances for the IFA XI. These include two Victory internationals played in early 1946. On 2 February at Windsor Parkmarker he made his debut for the IFA XI in a 3–2 defeat to Scotland at Windsor Parkmarker. Then on May 4 he helped the IFA XI defeat Wales 1–0 at Ninian Parkmarker. On 28 September 1946 Aherne also played for the IFA XI in a heavy defeat to England. The highlight of career with the IFA XI came on 4 October 1947 when he helped them gain a 2–0 win against Scotland.

He made his last appearance for the IFA XI in a 0–0 draw with Wales on 8 March 1950. As well as being part of the 1950 British Home Championship, the game also doubled up as a qualifier for the 1950 World Cup. Aherne , together with Con Martin, Reg Ryan and Davy Walsh, was one of four players from the Republic, included in the IFA XI that day and as a result he played for two different associations in the same FIFA World Cup tournament. This situation eventually led to intervention by FIFAmarker and as a result Aherne became one of the last four Republicmarker-born players to play for the IFA XI.



Belfast Celtic

Luton Town


  • The Boys In Green – The FAI International Story (1997): Sean Ryan [338851]
  • Soccer at War – 1939 – 45 (2005): Jack Rollin [338852]

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