Last respects paid to former Burnley favourite McIlroy

Football fans and well-wishers lined the streets of Burnley on Friday to pay their last respects to club favourite Jimmy McIlroy.

McIlroy, a key figure in the Clarets side which won the 1960 First Division title and reached the quarter-finals of the European Cup the following season, died earlier this month at the age of 86.

The Northern Ireland international made 497 appearances for the club and scored 131 goals during a 13-year stay at Turf Moor.

Several hundred spectators broke into sustained applause as McIlroy’s funeral cortege travelled down Harry Potts Way before turning into the Premier League club’s stadium.

It paused briefly in front of the stand named in McIlroy’s honour before proceeding to the James Hargreaves Stand for a private ceremony attended by family, friends and prominent figures from the world of football, including Burnley manager Sean Dyche, Tommy Docherty and Mike Summerbee.

Supporters who remained outside the ground were able to listen to a live audio broadcast of the service, which included a performance of Nessun Dorma by local opera singer Sean Ruane and a recording of Somewhere Over the Rainbow performed by Eva Cassidy.

Family friend Peter Salmon paid a moving tribute to McIlroy, who died after a six-year battle with Alzheimer’s.

Salmon said that when asked if heading the old leather footballs could have contributed to the disease, McIlroy’s daughter Anne joked that her father “didn’t do much heading because he didn’t want the ball to mess his hair up.”

McIlroy himself had also been able to joke about his illness, telling friends after his first appointment at a dementia clinic that it was probably the only place in Burnley where no-one knew who he was.

Born in Lambeg, Country Antrim, McIlroy joined Burnley from Glentoran in 1950 after they beat Tottenham and Rangers to the punch and he became a mainstay of the side which secured top-seven finishes every season between 1956 and 1963.

They claimed the title in 1960 by a point from Wolves, qualifying for Europe in the process, only to eventually fall at the last eight after a 4-1 second leg defeat in Hamburg.

McIlroy left the club for Stoke in 1963, where his son Paul was able to enjoy kickabouts with Sir Stanley Matthews, and finished his playing days at Oldham, where he later had a brief spell as manager, a role he also fulfilled with
Bolton.

A skilful inside forward, he won 55 caps for his country and helped them reach the quarter-finals at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden.

Despite offers to play abroad, McIlroy chose to remain in England and after his retirement embarked upon a new career as a journalist with the Burnley Express, living in the town until his death. He is survived by his children Anne and Paul.

McIlroy was given the freedom of Burnley in 2008 and awarded an MBE in the 2011 New Year’s Honours for his services to football and charity.

Burnley players wore black armbands during their Europa League tie against Olympiakos on Thursday and will do so again for Sunday’s home Premier League game with Manchester United. A minute’s silence will also be observed at Turf Moor.

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