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Jimmy Jones dies: Veteran footballer who still holds Irish League goal record

BY EDDIE McILWAINE

Veteran football star Jimmy Jones, who has died aged 85, scored 74 goals for his Glenavon team in the 1956-7 season. And it still stands as an Irish League record today, 58 years later.

Which wasn't a bad accomplishment by a centre-forward, who was once told he might never pull on his boots again after having his leg broken during a serious riot at Windsor Park on Boxing Day 1948 in a match between Belfast Celtic and Linfield.

Jones, the Celtic striker, was attacked at the final whistle as he made his way off the field. In the first half, he had been involved in a collision with Bob Bryson, the Linfield centre-half, whose leg was broken.

An announcement about Bryson's injury was made to the packed crowd over the Tannoy at the interval. The riot, which figured in a play produced at the Lyric Theatre a few years ago, resulted in Celtic, then managed by Elisha Scott, going out of football altogether.

Jimmy's leg injury was so bad that doctors feared his sporting career was over. But the burly Jones thought otherwise and embarked on a tough training programme.

He made a remarkable recovery and signed for English club Fulham, eventually returning to the Irish League with home town club Glenavon and playing for Northern Ireland.

Those 74 goals were scored in the 1956-7 season, when Glenavon did the League and Cup double. Jones was also a dedicated motorcycle racer in summer and was seen regularly competing in the Ulster Grand Prix.

Occasionally, when the football and motorbike seasons clashed, he was admonished by his manager, Jimmy McAlinden, who feared his ace scorer might be hurt in a crash.

Adrian Teer, chairman of Glenavon for 17 years, said: “All Jimmy's goals were great goals. He was a special kind of player and I have so many happy memories of him in his heyday.

“He still came around the club just to chat to the team and the directors. He lived just around the corner in Mourneview Avenue.

“There is going to be a big turn-out at Jimmy's funeral, which hasn't been arranged yet, and many tributes will be paid to him and to his wife of many years, Cicely, who survives him.

“Jimmy was one of the Irish League's greatest and he was idolised by the fans.”

Jones, after whom a suite has just been named at Mourneview Park, and his close friend, the late Wilburn Cush, were key figures for several seasons in the Glenavon team. Both played together in the Northern Ireland side and both had spells with Portadown.

Jimmy was with Glenavon as captain during a tour of the USA in 1960 and manager from 1969-72. Altogether, he scored 517 goals for the club and was the Irish League's leading scorer for 10 successive seasons.

His honours include three Irish League championship medals and three Irish Cup medals. He also won three Northern Ireland caps.

He played for a short time with Larne, before the transfer to Fulham.

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