Tributes paid to football mad Lurgan man who smiled in the face of adversity

Neil McKinley, pictured centre, with Hill Street team mates Paul Mercer (left) and Greig Stewart (right)
Neil McKinley, pictured centre, with Hill Street team mates Paul Mercer (left) and Greig Stewart (right)
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Even in the face of serious illness Lurgan man Neil McKinley never lost his infectious smile.

The talented sportsman and father-of-two fought a brave battle with leukaemia before sadly passing away on Wednesday at the age of 41.

The Hill Street team who won the Junior Cup in 2005 including Neil McKinley, pictured in the front row, second from left

The Hill Street team who won the Junior Cup in 2005 including Neil McKinley, pictured in the front row, second from left

Neil enjoyed a successful career with Mid Ulster Football League club Hill Street FC, with whom he won the Junior Cup.

A graphic designer by trade, Neil spent several years as an employee of Morton Newspapers based in Carn.

His loss has been felt throughout his home town and beyond, most sharply by his wife Denise and daughters Taylor and Haydn.

Hill Street described him as “a warrior both on and off the pitch” in an online tribute.

Paul Mercer played alongside Neil – nicknamed Skinner – in a Hill Street team which won countless trophies. Their crowning glory was the Junior Cup win in 2005 when Neil scored a sudden death penalty to sink Ardoyne.

Paul said: “He was one of the best. He lived his life with fire in his belly, he played football like that.

“His Junior Cup medal meant a lot to him and was often used to settle football arguments.

“He always had that cheeky smile. He was a really happy go lucky guy. He’s going to be hugely missed.”

Neil was also a valued member of Lurgan Ladies Hockey Club where his daughters Taylor and Haydn played.

The club said Neil was “a true gentleman who lived life with a smile on his face which was infectious and will be sorely missed”.

His wake will take place on Friday from 3pm to 5pm at Malcomsons Funeral Home in Lurgan. His funeral will take place on Saturday at 2pm from the Emmanuel Church in the town.