Jimmy McIlroy found his home in Burnley
Jimmy McIlroy found a home away from home when he crossed the Irish Sea to start a new life in Burnley.
In return, he helped provide the small Lancashire market town with some of his most precious sporting memories in a marvelous career that is celebrated to this day by fans who have never seen him play.
It was a love affair that would last the rest of his life, even if some of his contemporaries could not understand why.
Burnley teammates Jimmy McIlroy (right) and Brian Pilkington (PA)
In 1996 McIlroy told the BBC: "Years later we played Spurs on Turf Moor and I was talking to Danny Blanchflower on a gray November afternoon.
"He looked at the thousands who came in the way with their dust caps and dampers and said: 'Why do you live in such a spot? & # 39; And yet from the moment I am in this little little town, I never dreamed of leaving. & # 39;
McIlroy was born in the village of Lambeg in County Antrim, Northern Ireland on October 25, 1931, and learned his football on the streets around his house, perfecting the skills that would define his career in informal games played with a tennis ball.
A bricklayer by profession, he cut his teeth in the professional game with Glentoran, but an inside player who combined the possibilities of dribbling, passing, hitting a man, scoring a goal and running all day, quickly moved away. interest from elsewhere.
McIlroy was barely 19 when Burnley came to visit, armed with a £ 7,000 check, while Tottenham and Rangers circled.
He was immediately thrown into the ground by manager Frank Hill and made his debut in Sunderland in a first division match.
However, it was under the watchful eye of Harry Potts that he established himself as an important member of a team that would compete at the highest level of English football and beyond during a stay of nearly 13 years.
The Clarets never finished outside the top seven between 1956 and 1963 and won the title for only the second time in the history of the club in 1960.
They reached the quarterfinals of the European Cup during the next campaign, eventually collapsing for a 5-4 total loss on the Hamburg side, and agonizingly came close to winning the Dubbel in 1962 after allowing a lead of six points in the competition and losing the FA Cup final to Tottenham.
By all the ups and downs, McIlroy, who was also tipped 55 times by Northern Ireland and played in the world cup finals of 1958 in Sweden, he built and strengthened an enviable reputation alongside Jimmy Adamson and jumped into a side full of full internationals.
Teammate John Connelly said: "Mac was the icing on the cake."
In total, McIlroy made 497 appearances for Burnley and scored 131 goals before he was controversially sold to Stoke in 1963, and opted for a move to Manchester United shortly before the disaster in Munich.
He would also reject offers to play abroad after he was succeeded by Sampdoria and River Plate.
The Irishman ended his playing days in Oldham and needed only a short time as a manager to convince himself that this was not the way forward.
He told Sunday life: "That was the biggest mistake in my life! I was not smart for management, I realized that from the very first match."
Widower McIlroy embarked on a new career as a journalist with the Burnley Express and lived in the city until his death. He is survived by his children Anne and Paul.
Awarded an MBE for his services to football and charity in 2011, after he had been granted the freedom of the city three years earlier, he remains part of the manufacture of Burnley Football Club, where a stand bears his name.
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