McIlroy, an inside-forward capped 55 times by Northern Ireland, is still regarded as Burnely's finest player. The midfield partnership he forged with Jimmy Adamson took them to the title in 1960, second place and the FA Cup final two years later.
'I came here in 1950 and I've never left,' McIlroy said. Even after his transfer to Stoke City, he did not stray. 'I love the moors and I've always felt at home here.'
Leaving school in Belfast at 14, McIlroy began his football career three years later with Glentoran. When he left the game, after a spell as player- manager of Oldham, it was to pick up a notebook and pen.
'I was fortunate enough to get an journalist's card,' he said, 'and the Blackburn Evening Telegraph invited me to join the staff. They used to send me to cover matches, but, to tell the truth, I did not enjoy watching.' Instead, he wrote about the bowls and darts leagues and interviewed local people.
After moving to the Burnley Express, he retired three years ago and occupies himself now with golf, gardening and a newly acquired interest in painting and sketching. He will be 63 next month.