Obituary: Jackie McInally, footballer

Footballer who became a Kilmarnock FC legend. Picture: SNS

Footballer who became a Kilmarnock FC legend. Picture: SNS

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Born: 21 November, 1936 in Ayr. Died: 9 July, 2016 in Ayr, aged 79.

Jackie McInally, who has died after a sudden illness, holds legendary status where Kilmarnock FC is concerned, as one of the players who brought the Scottish League Championship to Rugby Park for the only time, in 1965. Along with Frank Beattie and Bertie Black, he was a constant through that Golden Age from 1960 to 1965 when, under Willie Waddell, Killie and Hearts offered a genuine challenge to Scot Symon’s wonderful Jim Baxter-inspired Rangers side.

Like Beattie and Black, McInally was woefully under-appreciated in the SFA council chamber, where the national side was then selected. Fair enough, the three Kilmarnock men were fighting for Scotland recognition against three shoo-ins to any All-Time Scotland Squad, Baxter, John White and Denis Law, but, lesser talents – including his own son, Alan “Rambo” McInally, who older Killie fans will assure you, was: “A guid player, but, no a patch oan his faither” – have won the caps which were denied McInally senior.

In Jackie’s case, he was chosen just once for the Scottish League side, for the then annual International Trial, between “Scotland” and “the Scottish League”. His appearance came on 30 January, 1961. Sadly, contemporary reports state he failed to do himself justice.

That was typical of his bad luck when it came to mementoes of a long career – more than 400 senior games for Kilmarnock, Motherwell and Hamilton Accies between 1959-75. There was a League-winner’s medal from 1965, a Second Division Championship medal with Motherwell in 1969, but his others were runners-up ones, as Killie lost in the 1960 Scottish Cup and the 1960-61 League Cup finals, and the 1962-63 League Cup final to Hearts. That one really hurt everyone around Rugby Park, after Tom “Tiny” Wharton wrongly chalked off a Beattie goal, allowing Hearts to win. Still, Killie had their revenge in 1965.

He did have one victorious Hampden moment, in 1959, when he played for the unsung Crosshill Thistle team which won the Scottish Amateur Cup, defeating Eaglesham Amateurs. Twelve months later, he was back at the National Stadium, in the Kilmarnock team which lost to Rangers in the senior Scottish Cup Final.

McInally signed for Killie shortly after that Crosshill final – prior to joining Thistle, he had learned the football trade with Kello Rovers and Minishant Amateurs, who would themselves lift the Amateur Cup in 1960.

Willie Waddell wasted little time in putting him into the first team for the second match of the 1959-60 season, a League Cup tie against ­Stirling Albion, at Annfield on 12 August, 1959. He would miss a mere five games that season, as he made the number eight shirt his own.

He wore it on that unforgettable afternoon of 24 April, 1965, at Tynecastle, when goals from Davie Sneddon and Brian McIlroy gave Killie the only result they needed, a 2-0 win over Hearts and the club’s solitary League Championship.

Earlier that season, he had worn it during the greatest comeback, ever, by a Scottish side, when, trailing 0-3 from the first leg in Germany, Killie conceded an early goal to Eintracht Frankfurt in an Inter-Cities Fairs Cup tie, at Rugby Park to go 0-4 down, before bouncing back with five unanswered goal, the final, winning one coming from McInally, to take the Ayrshire through via a 5-4 aggregate victory.

The following season, he played his part as Killie took on the mighty Real Madrid in the European Cup. In the first leg at Rugby Park, McInally was brought down for the penalty which Tommy McLean converted to put the Ayrshire side in front. Goals from Martinez and Amancio put the Spanish giants ahead, Killie were denied a stonewall penalty when Zoco clearly fouled McInally, but big Jackie had the last laugh on the night, heading home a Ronnie Hamilton cross to equalise. Real won the second leg in the Bernabeu, 5-1, but it was not as easy as that scoreline suggests.

An appearance on such a grand stage must have seemed an impossible dream for the young Ayr-born Jackie McInally, as he left Newton Park School to begin his plumbing apprenticeship. Even then, and throughout his long football career, indeed, all his life, he was tall and lean. Family sources tell of his mother packing a huge “piece” – 24 rolls – for Jackie to eat during his working day. But, as if to prove “You cannot fatten a thoroughbred”, he was as spare at the end of his life as he had been as an apprentice.

In common with the young men of his day, Jackie had to spend two years in National Servic; he served with the Royal Scots Greys, before returning to Ayrshire and football.

When he hung up his boots for the last time, he and Avril, his devoted wife of 55 years, ran a couple of shops, before, after a spell in the Hyster fork lift factory in Irvine, Jackie found his post-football niche managing a paint wholesaler in Kilmarnock.

He was an excellent golfer, playing off three at St Cuthbert’s GC, Prestwick, close to his Monkton home, while he was a very good darts player. He also enjoyed watching Alan following his path into football, from Ayr United, to Celtic, Aston Villa, Bayern Munich and Scotland.

A good box-to-box midfielder, with an eye for a goal, 127 in his long career, McInally scored some memorable ones, but, never better than one he scored for Kilmarnock, against Motherwell, at Rugby Park, in 1961. Killie won the game 5-3, Andy Kerr scored four of their goals, but the goal of the game came from McInally, struck from almost 50 yards out, into the teeth of a near-hurricane, and horizontal rain. The ball was an old-fashioned leather T-ball. It was something special.

Jackie McInally’s final years were blighted somewhat by dementia, but, he was in otherwise good health, until the sudden, short illness which took him. He is survived by Avril and Alan.

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