One of Glenavon’s greatest ever players, Jackie Denver, passed away peacefully at the weekend.
An inside forward Jackie, who would have been 87 in September, began his soccer career with Shankill Young Men before joining Belfast Celtic.
He toured with Celtic in 1948 when they famously defeated the Scottish national side - who had won the British Championship that season - 2-0 in a New York tournament.
When Belfast Celtic withdrew from the Irish League Jackie joined Glenavon in 1949 where he linked up with his cousin Billy Cush and Jimmy Jones, known as the Three Muskateers.
They were part of the Glenavon team who won the Irish League in 1952 - the first time the Gibson Cup had come out of Belfast.
It was the start of the glory days of the 50s as fans flocked to Mourneview Park with Jackie Denver a firm favourite of the crowd.
After winning trophies with the Lurgan Blues and Irish League representative honours he retired in his early thirties and at one stage ran the reserve team at Mourneview when his great friend Jimmy Jones was first team manager.
Glenavon chairman, Adrian Teer, said Jackie’s death was a sad loss for the club.
“Jackie was one of the finest and most gifted players ever to wear the Glenavon jersey,” he added.
“His name will always be connected with the golden era of the 1950s. He was a great ambassador for Glenavon when he played and also in later years.”
Adrian remembered seeing Jackie play towards the end of his career.
“He is one of the immortals at the club. When the history of Glenavon is recalled Jackie’s name will always figure prominently,” said Adrian. “He was one of the rocks of the team in the 1950s.”
Jackie was also a keen follower of Sunnyside and could often be seen on the sidelines as the team, managed by Dick Craig, played in Lord Lurgan Park.
But football wasn’t Jackie’s only sporting love. During the summer he liked to turn his hand to cricket with his beloved Victoria Cricket Club.
He was a founder member of the club in 1954 and played until he was into his sixties.
Living in Victoria Street he got together with other residents to start the team which at that time played their games at Lord Lurgan Park
Jackie was a very shrewd player, a quiet man in the field, but an astute slow bowler.
Past Victoria Chairman, Fred Bunting, had the pleasure of playing a few games alongside him in the 1960s.
Fred spoke of how Jackie was a big star in Lurgan at the time, and how much of a privilege it was to just play in the same team as him.
“Jackie was a committed clubman, playing for Victoria for over 30 years, and playing into his sixties,” said Fred.
“He also did a stint as club treasurer. Victoria Cricket Club is indebted to Jackie Denver not only for his foresight in forming the club but also his dedication and commitment throughout the years.”
Born and bred in Victoria Street Jackie went to the Model School and Lurgan College.
“He always remembered his first day at Lurgan College because that was the day the Second World War broke out,” said his son Alex who followed in his father’s footsteps and played for Glenavon.
When he left school he joined the Post Office and worked as a telephone engineer, completing over 40 years service before his retirement.
He married Patsy Burnison in 1958 and they moved into Glenview Drive in Lurgan where they lived for all their married life.
Patsy died in 2005 and for the last few years of his life Jackie lived at Manor Court and Aughnacloy House in the town.
After a short illness he died on Sunday. He is survived by sons Alex and Alan, daughter Pamela and six grandchildren. His funeral service was in Shankill Parish Church on Wednesday with interment in Lurgan Cemetery.