Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Celtic fans will always have a special place in their hearts for Jimmy Jones

HE was only with the club for three seasons and played his last game for them almost 65 years ago, but Jimmy Jones will always remain synonymous with Belfast Celtic.

Celtic withdrew from Irish League football within months of an incident after a game at Windsor Park on Boxing Day 1948, when Jimmy sustained a broken leg after being caught up in the midst of rioting Linfield supporters.

He scored more than a goal a game in the hoops and that is why he is so revered by those who refuse to let the club's name die.

After he passed away yesterday the Belfast Celtic Society (BCS) paid a glowing tribute to Jimmy, who, being such a down-to-earth character, could never quite understand why he was so hero-worshipped by fans who never even saw him play.

"Jimmy was a treasure. All of us in the society feel much richer for having shared so much time with him over the years," said Belfast Celtic Society chairman Padraig Coyle.

"He loved coming along to our gatherings and he would often roll up his trouser leg to reveal the old injury that had stood him so well in almost two decades of football.

"Jimmy never lost his regard for Belfast Celtic and spoke often of how well he was treated by the club during his time at Paradise.

"He was never put out by being accosted by well-wishers and autograph hunters, but was always baffled as to why he was held in such awe and treated like a star.

"It was with much hilarity a few years ago that, at the unveiling of a mural in his honour completed by children in the St James's area of Belfast, babies were pushed into his arms for him to kiss."

As he plundered goal after goal in the mid-1940s Jimmy became a hot property and he had chances to leave Celtic Park.

He not only turned down Linfield, but he also said 'no' to the opportunity to go to Manchester United.

It wasn't just in Belfast that Jimmy was held in high esteem. His goalscoring exploits, most notably with Belfast Celtic and Glenavon, made him a Northern Ireland football icon.

The BCS made Jimmy their inaugural president when the group was founded in 2003 and he held the position until his death.

The group's tribute revealed a story from over a decade when even Northern Ireland's 1982 World Cup captain Martin O'Neill was delighted to experience meeting someone that he himself regarded as a boyhood hero.

"In 2001, a group of former Belfast Celtic players – Jimmy, Ossie Bailey, Leo McGuigan, Jimmy Donnelly and George Hazlett – were invited to Celtic Park in Glasgow by the then Celtic manager Martin O'Neill," explained the BCS.

"O'Neill professed himself thrilled to meet 'the great Jimmy Jones.'

"With characteristic modesty, Jimmy could not quite work out why. The old players were led out onto the pitch. The reaction from the fans was absolutely amazing and they were given a standing ovation.

"The Belfast Celtic Society committee and members are deeply saddened by his passing and our thoughts are with his wife Cecily, son Trevor and daughter Jennifer and the entire Jones family circle at this very sad time.

"On behalf of Belfast Celtic fans and well wishers the world over, thanks for the memories, Jimmy."

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