Doherty, Peter Dermot (1913–90), soccer player and manager, was born 4 June 1913 in Church St., Magherafelt, Co. Londonderry, son of William Doherty, carter, and Sarah Doherty (née Duffin). His family moved to Coleraine, Co. Londonderry, where he was educated at St Malachy's primary school. Playing soccer for Station United, he made one appearance for Coleraine while employed as a bricklayer and bus conductor. In 1930 he was signed for £24 as an inside forward by the Belfast team Glentoran; he helped them win the Irish Cup in 1933. Blackpool of the English second division signed him in November 1933 for £2,000. He scored twenty-eight goals in eighty-three league appearances for the club, which barely missed winning promotion in his only full season with them (1934/5). Doherty won the first of sixteen caps for Northern Ireland against England in 1935. His bravery and skill brought him to the attention of first-division Manchester City, who bought him for £10,000 (a club record) in February 1936. Able to direct a team from the front, he earned the title ‘Peter the Great’ and scored thirty goals in forty-one appearances in his new club's league championship victory in the 1936/7 season. Despite his scoring twenty-three goals in the next season (1937/8), City suffered relegation to the second division. Altogether Doherty scored seventy-four goals in 119 league appearances for Manchester City, before normal competition was suspended at the outset of the second world war.
Doherty volunteered in 1940, and after basic training at Morecambe found himself a physical training instructor sergeant at the RAF's Loughborough rehabilitation centre for injured fliers. With his flame-red hair he had a reputation for short temper, but his wounded charges remembered him and his colleague, the great English forward Raich Carter, for their sympathy and good humour. While playing eighty-nine matches for Manchester City in various wartime competitions, and scoring sixty goals, he ruffled the club's management by frequently guesting with other clubs (at least ten), most notably Derby County. Signing with Derby for £6,000 in December 1945, he teamed with Carter and starred in the club's successful FA Cup campaign of 1946, scoring ten goals in ten matches. In the eighty-sixth minute of the cup final against Charlton Athletic at Wembley, a free kick by Charlton's Bert Turner (who one minute earlier had scored an own goal that put Derby ahead) deflected off Doherty into the Derby net to equalise at 1–1. Doherty put Derby into the lead again with a goal in the second minute of extra time; Derby eventually won 4–1.
After falling out with Derby County's management early in the 1946/7 season, Doherty transferred for £10,000 to first-division Huddersfield Town (December 1946). Scoring thirty-three goals in eighty-three league games, he was instrumental in saving them from relegation in each of three seasons. His international career also resumed: he scored the last-second equaliser in a 2–2 draw against England at Goodison Park (5 November 1947), the last of his three international goals. Doncaster Rovers recruited him as player-manager in 1949 and were rewarded with promotion to the second division as champions of Division Three North in his first season at the helm (1949/50), in which he contributed twenty-six goals. In four seasons at Doncaster, he scored fifty-five goals in 103 league games. He won his last international cap in November 1950 against Scotland, and retired in 1953, having played in 403 league games and scored 197 goals; in an additional thirty-eight FA Cup games he scored twenty-two goals.
Northern Ireland employed this committed pipe-smoker as their manager in October 1951. He was fortunate in his team: Danny Blanchflower (qv), his captain, Jimmy McIlroy, Harry Gregg, and Peter McParland were all excellent players. On 6 November 1957 they defeated England 3–2 at Wembley before qualifying, for the first time, for the World Cup finals in Sweden in 1958, eliminating Italy as they did so. Their first match (8 June 1958) was a victory against Czechoslovakia; the date is remarkable, as this was the first time an Irish Football Association team ever played on a Sunday. Reaching the second round from a group that also included Argentina and West Germany was an achievement itself but the effort drained the players, who succumbed to France 4–0 in the quarter-final of a tournament eventually won by Brazil.
Doherty resigned from the manager's post in 1962 because of the bad health of his wife, Jessica, and retired. Rated by some as the most gifted footballer from Northern Ireland prior to George Best (qv), Doherty was a consistent goal-scorer, possessing a deadly accurate shot from any spot, while also a master of the long pass. The second player to be inducted to the Texaco Hall of Fame in 1971, he died in Blackpool on 6 April 1990, leaving one son.