Belfast Telegraph

The man who cleaned up Northern Ireland football retires after 30 years in the job

He's been the key to the Northern Ireland football team’s radiant green and white jerseys for 30 years.

But now 71-year-old Derek McKinley has washed his last pair of shorts following Northern Ireland’s game against the Italians last night.

Over the past three decades he has been the unsung hero of the green and white army and been in charge of all manner of clothing for Northern Ireland’s sporting heroes.

Originally from Donegal, Derek grew up in Belfast before joining the international set-up in 1981, aged 41, and has been through both the highs and lows in his 228 matches as the kitman.

Derek said: “It’s been brilliant, it has been enjoyable but now it is time to go. My job over the years has been looking after the kits, getting kit to players and all the miscellaneous stuff like the training tracksuits and slips.

“It has always been good and interesting and there’s been a lot of travel.”

Making his own international debut against Israel in November 1981 he has provided support to some of the team’s greatest players including Pat Jennings and Gerry Armstrong.

Derek said: “It’s been amazing, great and really worthwhile but it’s time to go. I’ll still be keeping in touch, though.”

In 2009, his tireless efforts were rewarded after he received an award from FIFA for his “long and distinguished career”.

His departure comes alongside manager Nigel Worthington, who stepped down last night after four-and-a-half years at the helm, leaving amid a torrent of calls from fans and commentators pushing for his resignation.

But Derek says the team remain hopeful for better days.

“I suppose it is significant with a manager going. But we’re still optimistic,” he said.

Factfile

  • 228 international games;
  • Dealt with 163 players over three decades;
  • Washed more than 100,000 training kits;
  • Cleaned more than 10,000 match kits;
  • Provided more than 20,000 bars of chocolate for players on match days;
  • Worked under six managers.


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