The shocking story of a one-armed footballer who had a limb amputated at 14 and was shot at 38
WHEN you think of Belfast’s biggest footballing export, your mind immediately wanders to George Best – and rightly so.
But while Best has gone down in folklore as one of the all-time greats – up there with Pelé and Diego Maradona – another Northern Irish icon has faded somewhat into the haze.
This man is Jimmy Hasty.
To say his story is unique would be an understatement.
Hasty lost his arm aged 14, made history on the football pitch, took a job as a bookie and was shot at point-blank range aged 38 during ‘The Troubles’ ” in Northern Ireland.
After his death in 1974, Hasty was slowly forgotten by the masses.
But his story is absolutely worth telling.
Born in Belfast in 1936, Hasty was just 14 when he lost his left arm.
The teenager had just taken up a job at Jennymount Mill when he was involved in an accident on the first day.
Hasty got his arm caught in a machine and had to have his arm amputated. He received £1,200 in compensation.
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Nevertheless, the youngster was determined to follow his passion: football.
Hasty played for several youth teams in and around Belfast before ending up at Newry Town in Northern Ireland’s B Division.
The striker was shooting goal after goal, before Dundalk chairman Jim Malone – on a reconnaissance mission – urged the board to sign him.
However, another board member had heard the name – and quickly clicked that he was the “one-armed wonder”.
The board rejected their chairman’s appeal – but Malone refused to give up and signed the player with his own money, bringing him just south of the border.
Eventually, Malone harassed the board and boss enough to convince them to give young Hasty his debut.
Records claim that apparently half of Dundalk descended on the stadium, curious to confirm rumors of their new one-armed striker.
And what beginnings he had.
The official account of the Dundalk match states: “He scored once and gave gasps of astonishment at his footballing skills.
“His ability to get past defenders was met with disbelief.
“He wasn’t just a goalscorer either – he was the general of every attack, holding the ball until executing perfect passes to his colleagues.”
His teammates were impressed by his talent, disregarding biology.
Francie Callan, his attacking partner for Dundalk, said: “It’s not easy being a footballer with one arm missing, you use your arms a lot to run, move, balance…
“But somehow you wouldn’t know he only had one arm.”
Former Dundalk captain John Murphy even claimed Hasty used his missing limb to his advantage.
Murphy revealed, “He could lean on you with that stump so you can’t take off, and the ref could look and just see a sleeve hanging down.
“Everyone wanted to see the one-armed bandit…it was like the circus was coming to town.
“He took the League of Ireland through the cobblers.”
The ex-president’s son, Paddy Malone, has revealed that he and his childhood friends would put their arms up their sleeves to emulate their hero.
He said: “We never considered Jimmy Hasty to have a disability, we just considered him to be a great player.”
Despite a string of injuries, Hasty made Dundalk history.
He scored 103 times in six seasons.
Most impressively, Hasty helped end the club’s 30-year drought in 1963.
This victory resulted in a European Cup appearance – eventually losing 4-2 on aggregate.
After losing 3-0 to Zurich at home, Hasty came close to dragging his side into the next round, scoring one, setting up another and nearly scoring his team’s third.
Dundalk eventually lost 4-2 on aggregate, but the 2-1 victory in Switzerland went down in history as the first European victory for an Irish side.
After a brief stint in Drogheda between 1966 and 1967, Hasty retired and forged a new life in Belfast.
He married his childhood sweetheart, Margaret, and the couple welcomed two sons – Paul and Martin – into the world.
Hasty took a job as a bookie – and it was on his way to work one day that tragedy struck.
Around 8 a.m. on October 11, 1974, Hasty was walking to work when a car stopped.
The driver shot Hasty three times in the back in a sectarian killing attributed to the Protestant Action Group – a cover name for the Ulster Volunteer Force.
In the catalog of those killed in The Troubles, Hasty is listed as 1,205.
The murder left the president and friend Malone heartbroken.
Son Paddy said: “That was the only time I saw my dad cry.”
His family, too, was crestfallen.
But Hasty’s son, Paul, was also able to live his dream: to see his father play football.
Since 2015, there have been three documentaries centering on the “one-armed wonder” – most recently released on UEFA TV in March 2023.
Seeing old footage of his father in his heyday, Paul revealed: “[Getting to see him play] you knew it wasn’t a fairy tale or made up.
“It was fantastic. Like a hundred Christmases at once.