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Iris Davies – A Special Goalkeeper

By Phil Bailey, Historian

A visit earlier this year to the beautiful country town of Shrewsbury, with its half-timbered Tudor houses and spectacular red bricked castle, was the place where we were lucky to meet a Welsh goalkeeping legend, Iris Davies.

Our research and further discussion with Iris indicate that she played 100 times for Wales across all formats: senior capped games, Wales B internationals and overseas tours. Her full international career started on 16th April 1966 against the Netherlands at Amstelveen where Wales lost narrowly 1-0, Iris beaten by a 27th minute goal by centre forward Helen Van-Rooy from a ‘penalty bully’.

Iris’ love of hockey was kindled when she attended Priory Grammar School in Shrewsbury and later when she moved to Bedford College, a place she still visits. Iris played hockey for Bedford College and represented her beloved Newtown Hockey club for many years. During this time, she also played county hockey for Shropshire.

Iris was Wales’s number one goalkeeper in the years that followed her debut, initially playing in the 1967 Home International series against: Ireland at Cross Keys; England at the home of Lancashire CCC – Old Trafford and Scottland at Bangor. Wales lost narrowly to Ireland and England but beat Scotland 2-0. Iris played regularly in goal for Wales until 1970, playing opponents as diverse as Trinidad and Tobago, Australia and West Germany; as well as playing in the annual Home International Championship.

In 1969 Iris toured South Africa with the Welsh touring side, playing against: South Eastern, Eastern, Western and Northern Transvaal; Boland, Border, Eastern Province and South West Africa. Three matches also took place against South Africa at Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town – playing at Stadiums famous for historic cricket Test Matches like The Wanderers and Kingsmead. Unfortunately, such international matches on the overseas tours in those days remained uncapped – something that is currently being looked at.

Due to illness Iris had a three-year break from international hockey but returned in 1973 to play England at Edgbaston – a 2-1 defeat. Draws followed against Scotland and Ireland and the domestic season ended with a 4-1 win against Belgium at Llandaff Fields. Following this Iris went on another spectacular tour - this time to the West Indies! The tour took Iris to Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago. Uncapped Tests against Jamaica, Barbados and TT were played at Sabina Park Kensington Oval and the Queen’s Park Oval – Iris must have played on more Test cricket grounds than most! Her illustrious career finally ended in 1977 against Scotland at Trostre Sports Ground, Llanelli, but not before playing England at Headingley!

Even though Wales lost 2-0 Iris has fond memories of playing England at Wembley in 1975. She remembers the noise being incredible and the crowd being close to 70,000. Iris was also told in an assessment that her eyesight was as ‘good as a fighter pilot’s’, something she clearly believed helped her become a top international keeper.

Iris was visited as part of the Welsh Cap Heritage Project and she supplied us with a mountain of information to help with the cap project and fill in missing gaps. She was proud to receive her Welsh Cap during the visit.

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