Northern Ireland football hero Jimmy McIlroy was described as a “superstar” at his funeral at Burnley’s Turf Moor stadium on Friday.
McIlroy, who reached the World Cup quarter-finals in 1958 with Northern Ireland, was laid to rest following the service at the stadium where he delighted crowds as a young man.
Fans lined the streets and applauded as his funeral cortege made its way to Turf Moor, where celebrant Peter Goulding led a service for around 150 guests inside the James Hargreaves suite.
“Today we say a fond farewell to Burnley’s finest,” he said. “Most importantly we say farewell to an exceptional, very attentive father. We say farewell to a very playful and loving grandfather. To a wonderful husband. Of course a warm hearted and never-to-be forgotten brother.
“All the songs, all the readings, all the thoughts to be expressed today, are being very much expressed with Jimmy in mind, things that meant a great deal to him. Things that extended beyond him just as the fabulous footballer, to the man, to the family man, to the community figure that of course so many mourn.”
Born and brought up in Lambeg near Lisburn, he was the eldest and only boy in a close-knit family of six children.
Peter Salmon, a long-standing friend of the McIlroy family, described the great footballer as “gentleman Jim” in a touching eulogy.
“Most of us here in this room were lucky enough to know Jim, not just as a footballing icon but as a friend, as a colleague, as a brother, father, granddad, and all-round warm, gentle, funny and very humble human being,” he said.
“Looking back, there are two things that seem central to who Jimmy was. The first was his twinkle - that warm, sharp, Irish wit and humour. Though he was a shy man, he had a way with words on paper and in conversation too.
“The second was his immense feeling of pride for his family and for his community, particularly the people of Burnley.”
He continued: “His footballing career has been well documented. He was, and always will be, a superstar but with the best qualities that come with superstardom.”
Mr Salmon added: “He was worshipped by his five sisters. He had to leave them behind in Lambeg, County Antrim, to start a family of his own here in Burnley. Along the way he built another extended family — the whole of this town, it would seem.”