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Morton McKnight: Tributes pour in for ‘immense’ Irish League and Distillery stalwart

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Dedicated: Morton McKnight served the Irish League in a multitude of roles both at club level and with the Irish Football Association

Dedicated: Morton McKnight served the Irish League in a multitude of roles both at club level and with the Irish Football Association

Dedicated: Morton McKnight served the Irish League in a multitude of roles both at club level and with the Irish Football Association

Morton McKnight lit up football in the Irish League with his personality and quite literally as the powerhouse behind bringing floodlights to the senior game in Northern Ireland.

Remembered as a “great companion”, “wonderful character” and an “immense figure”, warm tributes have been paid to the former Vice President of the Irish FA who has sadly passed away.

Innovative as the Irish League President and industrious as chairman of Distillery and a Newry director, McKnight was always keen to raise a smile with a funny story or telling quip.

A death notice read that the dearly loved husband of the late Lillian and much loved dad of Noel and Libbi and father-in-law to Marie Louise and Chris died peacefully on Sunday.

He was a member of the IFA’s International Committee in the 1990s and served as Vice President of the Association from 2005 to 2010, during which time he represented the IFA at the Fifa Congress and the International Football Association Board.

McKnight also oversaw the transition of Distillery to New Grosvenor, where a stand was named after him, and presided over the Irish League during testing times from 1991 to 1997. A moment’s reflection was observed for Morton at last night’s IFA EGM with the Association sending its “sincere condolences” to his family.

Paying tribute to his friend, former Fifa Vice President Jim Boyce said: “During my time as IFA President, Morton and I enjoyed many memorable trips away. He was a great companion and someone who I always had the greatest respect for, especially when he was the President of the Irish League and Vice-President of the IFA. He will be sorely missed by all his friends in football.”

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Another ex-IFA President, Jim Shaw, added: “Over the years, Morton and I developed a close friendship, hopefully for the good of football, as well as an enjoyable relationship. We travelled all over the Europe with international teams and he was a wonderful character. Socially, people enjoyed being around Morton.

“He made a fantastic contribution to football in Northern Ireland. Morton was instrumental in his role as then chairman of the Irish League in dealing with the grant support for floodlights for senior clubs here. He met Westminster ministers on that issue on several occasions and pushed it through and the senior clubs ended up with floodlights which was a big step forward.

“He was also the man who saved Distillery from extinction when they had to leave their original ground, Grosvenor Park, eventually moving up to where they are today. He worked so hard to make it happen.”

Former Whites manager Paul Kirk said: “Morton was an immense figure for Distillery Football Club. He did everything at the club, putting in long hours and I gained an appreciation and deep admiration for the hard work and dedication that he put in.

“Before games, he would be in the stand with a bucket and sponge washing seats so people could sit on them. That was the chairman! He took it upon himself to do everything. He was a wonderful man and should be remembered fondly.”

A service of celebration for Morton’s life will be held in Ronnie Thompson’s Funeral Church in Lisburn tomorrow at 1.15pm.


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