Jackie Cooley, a man who devoted many years service to Coleraine FC, has died in his native Derry.
Jackie was club trainer for a time but is probably best remembered by older fans as the man who was responsible for ensuring the club’s numerous Maiden City players arrived safely at the Showgrounds on match days and for training.
He drove the club minibus back and forward three times a week and often more.
It affectionately became known as “The Derry Ferry” and when Jackie finally decided he was getting too old for the job, his son Eddie got behind the wheel, with Jackie alongside him as his knowledgeable navigator.
Jackie was a wonderful ambassador for the club, known and loved across the country.
He knew his football and counted numerous top players as friends.
He had a tremendous gift for conversation and enjoyed spending time talking football with his wide circle of friends.
He served at Coleraine for several decades, pre the Bertie Peacock era and former manager Victor Hunter has described him as “a true legend” and a “dyed in the wool Coleraine stalwart who would literally always go the extra mile for people.”
Another ex-manager, the late Tony Curley, often said Jackie was one of the nicest men he ever met and went out of his way to make him feel welcome when he first arrived at the club from Belfast.
Victor Hunter, who kept in close contact with Jackie, told Times Sport that he was a ‘just a gentleman’.
“Jackie was just one of the those boys who got on with everyone.
“He had a smile and a hug for everyone he met.
“For many of the Derry based players, and even the local boys, Jackie was a father figure.
“He looked after the boys like they were his own sons, that’s just the kind of man he was.
“He was a true gentleman, and I know that everyone at Coleraine that knew Jackie and indeed the Cooley family are very saddened by this news.”
“I stayed in touch with Jackie and myself and my wife Mae often visited when we were in the Maiden City.
BBC Sport broadcaster Grant Cameron knew Jackie well.
He said: “Jackie was an absolute gem.
“He loved football, Coleraine and conversation. He shared a treasure trove of memories with me over the years and it was always time well spent being in his company.Through the decades Coleraine brought numerous excellent players to the club from Derry and Limavady. Jackie was a wise counsellor to many of them. They relied on his experience and integrity.”