Denis Connaghan (1945-2024)

Greenock Morton Football Club were extremely saddened to hear of the passing of former goalkeeper Denis Connaghan, this week, at the age of 79.

By Niall McGilp

He had a long and successful career, from Junior football to becoming a Celtic provisional signing in 1963, making over 100 appearances for Saint Mirren between 1966 and 1971, including a period in the States with Baltimore Bays, before re-joining Celtic in 1971. Having briefly signed for Ayr United, Denis joined the ‘Ton in September 1977 and played in 59 games in 1977/78 and 1978/79 seasons. He will best be remembered by all Morton fans as our goalkeeper during two of the most successful seasons in the club’s recent history.

Denis had been with Celtic at the same time as Benny Rooney and Mike Jackson, and it was that connection with the Morton management team that led to him signing years later for the club. Featured in a Morton programme in 2018, Denis said,

“I wasn’t in it for the money, I just wanted to play, and it was a great opportunity to join Benny and the team. Benny was a good manager. I never had any run-ins with him. If you were not playing, he would tell you why. Benny and Mike were a good partnership and coaching team. I remember he asked Erik Sorensen to come down and do some coaching with me and I really enjoyed that. Erik obviously had a good pedigree, a continental keeper who had different thoughts around how to coach. But yes, I got on well with Benny. Honest manager and I enjoyed my time with him.”

Making his debut v Hearts in October 1977, Denis went on to play in 30 matches during an exhilarating run to the First Division Championship, keeping 10 clean sheets as Morton clinched the title and promotion to the Premier League. He played a further 29 games for the club the following season, with 5 more “shut-outs”, before the arrival of David Brcic, on a short-term loan from New York Cosmos, and the re-signing of Roy Baines from Celtic, saw him move on to Clyde in September 1979, before finishing his playing career with Arthurlie in the early 1900s.

Speaking of his two successful years with Morton he said,

“I really enjoyed my time at Cappielow and of course, was lucky to win a League Championship medal. It was great to have won the title with a team like Morton and get them into the Premier League. We all got on really well – no cliques, we played as a team. We played for the jersey and the club. Hearts and Dundee were the key rivals. We had some tremendous tussles with those teams. I remember winning the title against Airdrie, when big Goldy (John Goldthorp) scored. Big Andy (Ritchie) scored also. Some of the things he would do were unbelievable. He was a law unto himself mind you, but what a player. We had some cracking players. George Anderson was a great centre half, and Neil Orr, who of course went down south to West Ham. And the fullbacks were as good as any that were around at the time – Davie Hayes and Jim Holmes. It wasn’t an easy league to win, you know. Mark McGhee was there also at the start of the season and went on to have a great career with Aberdeen, Celtic and Scotland.”

“I loved the atmosphere at Cappielow, with the crowd being really close to the players. Morton were always good to me. “

Denis was a successful keeper in a successful Morton team, and our thoughts are with his family and friends at this very sad time.

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