This Friday evening (30th July) Portadown will take on Knockbreda at Breda Park (KO 7:30pm) in the inaugural Derek McKinley memorial trophy to honour a gentleman who was an integral part of both clubs backroom teams over his long career and distinguished career in the local and international game.
When Bertie Neill took up the post as manager of Portadown FC in March 1977 he brought with him a completely new backroom team. Training responsibilities were handed to Derek McKinley, who offered his services having taken several treatment injury courses. Derek had been encouraged to apply for the position by another legendary figure in Portadown footballing history, Mr Bob Radcliffe, The rest as they say is history.
Born in Donegal in 1940, Derek moved with his parents to Belfast when he was five years old. His football career as a goalkeeper began at St. Simon’s in the Churches League, before joining Cliftonville Strollers, Bangor, Civil Service and then back to St Simon’s where he ended his playing career in 1970. He moved to East Belfast FC in the same year as trainer, before taking up a similar role at Portadown before becoming Physio and Kitman.
His talents didn’t go on noticed and in 1981 he was appointed Team Attendant to the Northern Ireland International team. His first game was the World Cup qualifier against Israel at Windsor Park in November 1981, which saw Northern Ireland qualify for the 1982 World Cup Finals in Spain under Billy Bingham. It was a role he carried out for 30 years before his retirement in Oct 2011, have clocked up 230 senior international games, under six managers, Billy Bingham, Bryan Hamilton, Lawrie McMenemy, Sammy McIlroy, Lawrie Sanchez and Nigel Worthington.
In 24 years of loyal service to Portadown, Derek missed less than a handful of games. One of those games was in March 1991 when Derek was on duty with the Northern Ireland team in Yugoslavia. The match was played at the Red Star stadium Belgrade, The Ports match against Crusaders had been moved to that night and Ronnie McFall’s team secured the title for the second season in a row. Derek joked that he would return to The Red Star Stadium in the Champions League, now how was that for a prediction. He served under five different managers with Portadown, Bertie Neill, Jackie Hutton, John Flanagan, Terry Kingon and Ronnie McFall. His loyalty was rewarded with two testimonial season, the first in May 1987 which culminated in a testimonial game between a Portadown XI and an International Select. The second testimonial game came in July 2000 against Leicester City.
Derek had many great memories during his time with Poradown, but one of his proudest moments came 0n 6th May 2000, when Ronnie McFall gave him the honour of leading the team out at Windsor Park for the Irish Cup Final against.
A year later Derek moved on to pastures new and after shorts spells with Lisburn Distillery and Glentoran he moved to Knockbreda.
Derek passed away in November 2018 at the age of 78 with many tributes paid to him from around the football world.
The announcement of an annual trophy in memory of Derek, to be contested by Portadown and Knockbreda is a fitting tribute to a loyal servant and one of the game’s true gentlemen.