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Shamus O'Brien

Sport: Soccer

Born: November 29, 1907

Died: November 28, 1981

Town: Kearny

William Shamus O’Brien was born November 29, 1907 in Neilston, Scotland and emigrated to the United States with his family after World War I. After a brief stay in Virginia, the O’Briens moved to Kearny, where Shamus immersed himself in the soccer culture of Cooper’s Block. At 17, he became the star of the Ryerson Juniors—who won the NJ State Cup—and was quickly signed to a professional contract by the New York Giants of the American Soccer League. In 1930, Shamus was invited to play for the U.S. in the first World Cup, but was unable to participate because he was technically not a citizen.

Shamus usually occupied an inside forward position, similar to a modern-day striker. He averaged a goal every two or three games at the height of his career.

A struggle between soccer’s governing bodies and the Great Depression nearly crippled the sport during Shamus’s prime years. As pro clubs came and went during the 1930s, he found himself playing for a different team in the New York-New Jersey area almost every year.

One of those clubs was a new iteration of the Giants, this one owned by baseball magnate Horace Stoneham. The Giants won the spring table and finished second to the New Bedford Whalers in the fall, setting up a home-and-home championship competition that winter. New Bedford won the first leg at home, 8–3, on New Year’s Day. Two days later, the Giants pulled off an incredible comeback, winning 6–0 to take the title on aggregate goals, 9–8. Shamus score twice during the match.

In 1932–33, Shamus led the New York Americans to the final of the US Open Cup. Shamus returned to Kearny to play for the Irish-Americans in 1933–34, and helped them win the ASL title. He played for Kearny until he retired from the game in 1938 at the age of 30. Shamus went to work for Prudential in Newark after his playing days, where he became a maintenance manager for the company. He retired to Bangor, Maine, where he passed away a day before his 74th birthday.

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