Coleraine Football Club mourned the passing of Jackie McIlreavy last week.
Jackie, who was affectionately known as ‘Hatchet’ due to the formidable presence in the Coleraine teams of the 1940s and 50s, passed away last Thursday.
“Hatchet” was the kind of player still much loved by the modern generation - a no-holds-barred performer who gave 100 percent every time he pulled on the Coleraine shirt.
Jackie was actually born three years before the club was formed in June 1927 following a meeting in the local Orange Hall.
Born and bred in Coleraine and brought up in Bellhouse Lane, Jackie attended the Irish Society School where he excelled in athletics and from there his passion for football developed.
He made his debut for Coleraine on September 1, 1945 against Distillery Seconds.
The Bannsiders had been out of football for the duration of the Second World War, apart from a few Irish Cup ties and friendlies.
Sammy Walker kept the club ‘alive’ and took the opportunity of fielding a team in the Intermediate League for the 1945/6 season, under the name Coleraine Reserves.
It was, to all intents and purposes, their senior team and many regarded it as one of the finest to represent the club. Coleraine were assured of a place in the Regional League for the following season, and the Irish League proper when it resumed in 1947/8.
The 1945/6 team included other locals Howard Platt, George Christie, Johnny McFaull and Wilson Hill along with the famous McKnights and Eddie Crossan (brother of Jobby).
Jackie played one game for Coleraine the following season. It was at Windsor Park and Coleraine scored five..unfortunately Linfield scored 10!
Jackie recalled that the two Linfield forwards, who netted all five goals between them in the game, came to ‘blows’ in an argument over who scored one of the goals.
The following season Jackie signed for Ballymena United. He stayed there for four seasons and picked up a Gold Cup medal.
He returned to his home town team for the start of the 1951/2 season and saw out the rest of his playing career there, picking up a City Cup medal in the 1953/4 season.
His last game for Coleraine was against Glentoran at the Oval on April 25, 1959.
He made a total of 203 appearances and scored just one goal, a penalty in an Intermediate Cup tie against the 9th BUFFS (Enniskillen) on October 13, 1945.
So given that history it was appropriate that Jackie was the guest of honour as the club launched its 80th anniversary kit in 2007.
Son John told Times Sport at the time: “He was over the moon to be invited and said he wouldn’t have done it for anywhere else.
“I met Raymond Pollock a while back and he told me he wanted my dad there to launch the new strip. He really enjoyed it.”
John added: “He bought his first football boots from Tylers in Coleraine and earned the money by running messages in Bellhouse Lane. They cost him four shillings 11 and a ha’penny!”
Incredibly Jackie was only eight when the new club secured their first trophy in 1932, lifting the Gold Cup.