Belfast Telegraph

Final farewell for Belfast Celtic and Glenavon legend Jackie Denver

BY CLAIRE MCNEILLY

The funeral of football veteran Jackie Denver took place in his home town of Lurgan yesterday.

Canon John Moore conducted the service at Shankill Parish Church where family and friends turned out to say a final farewell to the man who was widely regarded as one of local football's greatest ever players.

Tributes were paid to the 87-year-old star and family man who was later laid to rest in Lurgan Cemetery.

Denver (right), whose wife Patsy – a well-known hockey player – died a few years ago, is survived by sons Alex and Alan, daughter Pamela and six grandchildren.

The father-of-three passed away last Sunday after several years of ill-health that resulted in the loss of both legs through amputation.

He was best known as an inside forward in the legendary 1940s Belfast Celtic team managed by Elisha Scott, which bowed out of Irish League football in 1949 after an infamous fixture against Linfield at Windsor Park which saw visiting forward Jimmy Jones attacked by Blues fans.

The Co Armagh local hero was also on the Belfast Celic team which famously beat Scotland 2-0 in New York in 1949.

After Celtic's demise he joined home town team Glenavon and helped them win the Irish League title in 1952, the first time a non-Belfast team had finished as champions.

And two years later Glenavon won the Ulster, Gold and City Cups in the same season.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph after Jackie's death, his son Alex said he had never had the opportunity to see his father play.

"I never saw my dad playing – he had retired before I was born," said Alex.

"But I am constantly being told what a wonderful player he was and how he and Billy Cush, who was his cousin, and Jimmy Jones fitted so well together at Glenavon."

Friend and former player, journalist Gordon Hanna, paid tribute to Denver.

He said: "Jackie was the best uncapped player to come out of Northern Ireland."

Denver's death means that only Jones, of the famous trio with Cush who helped Glenavon take the Irish League Championship out of Belfast for the first time in the 1951-52 season, is still alive.

Belfast Celtic Society chairman Padraig Coyle said that Irish football "has lost a legend and a gentleman".

He added: "Jackie battled bravely for years against serious illness, but never lost his passion for the game."

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