So many of the players who’ve filled the front row shirt of Featherstone Rovers with distinction were born locally. John Daly came from different stock. Daly’s route to Post Office Road was a most unusual one. Born in Cobh, County Cork, in 1916, he played Rugby Union, and after the war was at London Irish. He was selected for the Barbarians and then the full Ireland team. Sports fans over there hold the name John Daly close to their hearts, as it was he who scored the match winning try against Wales in 1948 which gave Ireland their only ever Grand Slam. He won seven caps in all. Eventually John Daly saw the light and tried his hand at Rugby League. What price would you give for a 32 year old ex-Union prop forward making the grade at League? Well, not only did he make the grade but he also proved himself a skilful ball-handler in the loose, which must make him the rarest ex–Union prop ever.
His league career started with Huddersfield, a top team at the time and very cosmopolitan, their side was full of Australians, Welshmen, Cumbrians, Scots and even the odd Yorkshireman. His debut was here at Featherstone in August 1948 where he was up against a Rovers front row of John Bramley, Arthur Wood and Cyril Pawson. Huddersfield won that day 23-5, and that year Daly went on to win a Championship medal at Fartown.
When he joined Featherstone in September 1951 Daly might have been forgiven for thinking that his career was winding down, but Rovers with Eric Batten at the helm had other ideas. By May he was striding out at Wembley with Batten, Miller and a host of local lads for the Cup final. He had a good game, but it was his unfortunate pass that was intercepted to give Workington a crucial try that day. The following season before retiring he had time to create another unique piece of Featherstone history by becoming the only Rover ever to be selected for the Other Nationalities representative team that used to compete with England, Wales and France for the European Championship. His final game for Rovers was in February 1953, against appropriately enough Huddersfield. He packed down alongside Willis Fawley and Fred Hulme in a game Rovers lost 19-10.
An abiding memory for older Rovers fans of this immensely popular player was at the end of the gruelling Cup semi-final against Leigh in 1952. A dour forward battle had resulted in a 6-2 for Rovers whose celebrating fans watched Daly turn a full somersault in delight! It’s one thing for some prima donna Premier League soccer player to pull a trick like that after scoring, but quite another for a Featherstone prop to do it after 80 minutes hard graft in a cup semi-final. John “Paddy” Daly, what a character!