DAVID Healy has paid tribute to his ‘close ally’ and ‘good friend’, legendary Northern Ireland team kitman Derek McKinley who sadly passed away last Friday.
The Linfield manager and former international striker said he was shocked and saddened by the news of his death, aged 78.
“I was completely shocked yesterday when I heard the news,” said Healy. “I seen Derek a number of weeks ago and would count Derek as a close ally and a good friend. “He was somebody who really took care of me when I first came into the international set-up at an early age. He’s someone I have a huge amount of respect for.
“So I was saddened. I was speaking to Terry Hayes about him as we both spent a lot of time on away trips with Derek and we were reminiscing on the bus on the way down about stories about Derek, the travel and the good old days and whatever else. He will be sadly missed,” added the Linfield boss.
Derek worked under six Northern Ireland managers between 1981 and 2011 and was involved in two World Cup campaigns in 1982 and 1986 with the IFA.
He acted as Northern Ireland’s main kitman for 30 years before hanging up his last batch of international shirts on October 2011 in a European qualifier in Italy.
In November 2011 a plethora of Northern Ireland greats turned out at a tribute dinner in the Culloden Hotel, Cultra, to mark his retirement and three decades of service.
Thirty former and current internationals were there, including eight players who helped Northern Ireland to the famous 1982 World Cup victory over Spain and more than half of the squad who travelled to Mexico for the 1986 World Cup.
In total Derek clocked up 230 senior international ‘appearances’ along with numerous stints with youth and B squads. He subsequently became an ambassador for the IFA’s Football For All campaign. He was also kit manager for Portadown, Lisburn Distillery, Glentoran and Knockbreda in the domestic game.
Derek’s funeral service will be held at 2pm tomorrow (Monday 19th November) in Carryduff at St. Ignatius Church.