Lives Remembered

Former Irish League star was a 'true Christian gentleman'

Pat Corr lined out for Ballymena, Coleraine, Burnley and Glenavon during a successful career

For football fans of a certain age, Pat Corr was a star player on one of the most celebrated teams in Irish League history.

A classy defender, his talents also brought him to the English First Division and to the verge of Northern Ireland's 1958 World Cup squad.

But to Mass-goers in Harryville in Ballymena he was better known as their trusted sacristan, cycling to the Church of Our Lady to open up each morning and ensuring the grounds were always spick and span.

At his funeral, Ballymena parish priest Fr Paddy Delargy said as an athlete, a supporter of the local boxing club and a man of devout faith, he was a competitor at the highest level all his life.

"I once asked Pat what his ideals in life were and, without hesitation, he said: 'I have always wanted to pray to God with real attention and concentration. I have always wanted to be a good influence on everyone I met – those are my two biggest wishes',” he said.

"St Paul could not have put it better. Those are the ideals of a true Christian gentleman."

Patrick Malachy Corr was born in Enniskillen in 1927 but lived most of his life in Princes Street in Ballymena.

His football career began with local team Seven Towers United and his talent was spotted by Ballymena United, where he scored within 10 minutes of his debut match in 1949.

Pat switched to Coleraine in 1951 before spending two seasons in the English Football League with Burnley.

Although he made only one first team appearance for the Clarets, a 6-1 thrashing by Manchester United, he would later dream of what might have been as the club reached an FA Cup final.

On returning home Pat joined Glenavon and was an attacking half-back on the famous side that won the league, Irish Cup and Gold Cup in the 1956/57 season.

Playing alongside the likes of Jimmy Jones and Wilbur Cash, the Lurgan Blues were also the first Irish League team to compete in European competition and he still enjoys hero status at the club.

He also earned Northern Ireland amateur and 'B' international caps during his career and in 1958 was on standby for the World Cup squad.

In younger years Pat was an amateur fighter with the old Ballymena Boxing Club and he became one of the first coaches for All Saints when it was launched by Fr Alex Darragh in 1961.

Fit as a fiddle all his life, he would also embark on huge walks on summer's days, on one occasion leaving home at 3am and reaching Waterfoot for morning Mass, before heading on to Glenarm.

Even in his seventies he could cycle down to the Glens, go for a 10-mile hike and cycle back.

He also headed out on his bike each morning to Harryville as he faithfully served parishioners as sacristan for more than a decade - a voluntary role which did not come without risk after the loyalist protests at the church of the 1990s.

He was also a regular member of the Rosary Club which met at the back every evening at 6pm to say the Angelus and recite prayers.

In recent years Pat suffered ill health, including a tumour which affected his face.

Fr Delargy said he bravely said he would "offer this distress up for the benefit of others”.

"It was his way to identify with the Lord Jesus on the Cross."

Patrick Corr died on Sunday January 29 aged 89 after a long, happy life. He was predeceased by his parents Patrick and Gertrude and brothers Liam, Turlough and Aaron.

Lives Remembered