Belfast Celtic legend renowned as teak -tough and prolific centre-forward

Jimmy Jones: July 25th, 1928 – February 13th, 2014


Jimmy Jones, who has died after a long illness, was a legendary Northern footballer who was at the centre of one of Irish soccer’s most infamous incidents. Belfast Celtic withdrew from the Irish League after Linfield fans attacked him following a match in 1948.

That infamous match was played on St Stephen’s Day at Linfield’s ground, Windsor Park, in Belfast. Linfield was perceived as a Protestant team, Belfast Celtic being perceived as Catholic, though Jones was Church of Ireland. During the first half, Jones broke a Linfield player’s leg in an accidental collision. At half time, a Linfield official announced the injury. When the game ended, Linfield supporters invaded the pitch. Jones was kicked unconscious and a Linfield fan jumped off a wall on to his leg, breaking it in five places. Surgeons considered amputating the leg.

Jones recovered, to become the Irish League’s top scorer ever, hitting 646 goals in a career that continued at Glenavon, Larne and Newry Town. He was capped three times for Northern Ireland. He was a strong centre-forward with legs like tree-trunks, who defined his function simply: “I am there to score goals.” An opponent broke his jaw in one match: he was back playing in a fortnight.

Jones was born in July 1928 in his maternal grandparents’ house in Keady, Co Armagh, only child of Thomas Jones, a police sergeant, and his wife Ellen (née Wilson).

After education at Carrick Primary School and Lurgan Technical College, he served his apprenticeship as a mechanic, while making an impact as a footballer.

When his death was announced at a Celtic home game in Glasgow, the crowd applauded him. They knew who he was, though most were not born when his career ended.

Jones is survived by his wife Cecily, children Jennifer and Trevor, and grandchildren.