CLARETS legend Jimmy McIlroy has finally been recognised for his role in one of his country’s greatest football achievements - more than half a century on.
McIlroy, 82, made five appearances at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden as Northern Ireland reached the quarter-finals, but the squad was never presented with caps to mark the historic games.
Now the Irish Football Association has moved to rectify that oversight, and McIlroy, Burnley FC’s honorary president, was in Belfast last week to receive his memento.
McIlroy, who scored 131 goals in 497 appearances for Burnley between 1950 and 1963, is regarded as one of Northern Ireland’s finest players.
Jim Shaw, the IFA’s president, said he had only recently discovered that no caps were awarded for the nation’s most successful side.
Mr Shaw said he was ‘determined’ to make sure all surviving players received their caps.
He said: “The Northern Ireland team from 1958 was exceptional and how we would love to have some of their talent in today’s team.
“They were the players who raised the bar for future Northern Ireland teams and the expectation has been high ever since.
“These players deserve to be recognised for their contributions at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden and I am delighted that Jimmy has now received his cap.”
Former Blackburn Rovers striker Derek Dougan, who died in 2007, was also a member of Northern Ireland squad which beat Czechoslovakia twice, lost to Argentina, and drew with West Germany before being eliminated by France.
McIlroy, a First Division champion with the Clarets in 1960, was awarded the freedom of Burnley borough in 2008 and received an MBE on the pitch at Turf Moor in 2011.
He said: “It’s a beautiful thing, really well-made and it looks smart. I was hoping over the years that something like this would be made.
“It was lovely to be home for two or three days to accept it.”