Northern Ireland news

Northern Ireland and Burnley legend Jimmy McIlroy remembered as 'giant of a man'

Jimmy McIlroy played football for Burnley and Northern Ireland

ONE of Northern Ireland's first World Cup football stars has been remembered as "a giant of a man" following his death.

Lambeg-born Jimmy McIlroy (86) is widely regarded as the greatest footballer to wear Burnley FC's claret and blue shirt.

He also appeared for Northern Ireland on 55 occasions, including at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden.

Recognised as one of the last century's top 100 world footballers, the `the prince of inside forwards' had been in poor health for some time.

He started his playing career with Glentoran before signing for Burnley in 1950.

`Jimmy Mac' was a key part of Burnley's last league championship-winning team in 1960. After his retirement, he remained in the east Lancashire town.

McIlroy, who has a stand named after him at Turf Moor and was given the honorary title of club president, was granted the freedom of the Borough of Burnley in 2008.

He was also awarded an MBE in 2011 for his services to football and charity but chose to receive it at Turf Moor instead of Buckingham Palace.

In 2005, McIlroy Park near Belfast, which forms part of the Lagan Valley Regional Park, was named in his honour.

Burnley FC led tributes to McIlroy, calling him a "giant of a man".

"I wasn't fortunate enough to see Jimmy play, but we all know of his impact on the club and town and there will never be another like him," chairman Mike Garlick said.

"It's a different time, we all know that, but Jimmy came from an era that defines us as a club. Even today, over 50 years on, the stadium proudly bears his name on a stand and he is someone who was, and is, idolised by fans of every generation."

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill said McIlroy was one of the greatest players ever to have worn the green shirt of Northern Ireland.

"As well as being a hugely talented footballer who reached the highest levels of the game, he was also a fantastic person and anyone who ever met him was struck by his warmth, his humility and his passion for football," he said.

Defender Alex Elder was a team-mate of McIlroy with both Burnley and Northern Ireland.

"He was my idol when I was a kid. He came from a village about four miles away from me," he said.

"Although we knew he had been poorly for some time, this is a sad day. RIP Jimmy and safe journey."

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