Jimmy O’Rourke: Legendary former Hibs striker and club's youngest-ever goalscorer dies at 76

Former Hibs striker Jimmy O’Rourke, who scored 122 goals in 325 games for the club, has died at the age of 76.

Jimmy O'Rourke pictured at Easter Road ahead of the 1971/72 season
Jimmy O'Rourke pictured at Easter Road ahead of the 1971/72 season

The boyhood Hibee, who also turned out for St Johnstone and Motherwell during his career and spent a period of time on Eddie Turnbull’s coaching staff at Easter Road, passed away in Edinburgh on the morning of November 15.

O’Rourke famously scored twice in the 7-0 New Year derby victory over Hearts at Tynecastle Park but was transferred to St Johnstone in 1974 to make way for Joe Harper – ‘’there’ll only be room for one wee fat barrel, and it won’t be me’ – later spending two years at Fir Park before returning to Leith.

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Born in September 1946 he signed for the Easter Road side as a schoolboy from Holy Cross Academy, where he was two years below another Hibernian legend in Pat Stanton, and made his debut at the tender age of 16 years and 85 days in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup match against Utrecht. This earned him a place in the club’s history books as the team’s youngest debutant until Jamie McCluskey, at 16 years and 79 days old, came on as a second-half substitute in a 2-0 victory at Kilmarnock in January 2004.

O'Rourke celebrates with team-mate and close friend Pat Stanton after opening the scoring in the 7-0 Edinburgh derby

“I was working at an electrical factory. There was a ‘phone call telling me to report to Easter Road for 6.30pm. Five weeks before I’d been playing school football. I think I only got three touches all night although I did hit the bar,” he recalled in May 2018.

O’Rourke opened his account for the club just three days after, in a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Dunfermline, and remains the club’s youngest-ever goalscorer. He then scored twice on his 19th birthday as Hibs beat Hearts 4-0 at Tynecastle with all four strikes coming in the opening ten minutes. He had booked a birthday trip to Blackpool on the belief he would be playing the reserve derby the previous night, but started in place of the injured Neil Martin, and travelled to the Lancashire seaside after the game.

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The arrival of Turnbull as manager in August 1971 seemed to bring out the best in O’Rourke, who became an integral part of the Tornadoes side of the 1970s. He came off the bench to score the fourth goal in the 5-3 victory over Celtic in the Drybrough Cup final in August 1972 and scored two hat-tricks inside a week the following month, including one in a 6-1 European Cup Winners Cup mauling of Sporting CP. He would also combine with close friend Pat Stanton to net the winner in Hibs’ 1972 League Cup triumph against Celtic – the club’s first major silverware for 70 years.

On January 1 1973, O’Rourke opened the scoring after nine minutes and scored again on 56 minutes as Hibs trounced their city rivals. His last appearance came in a 3-0 win against Morton at Cappielow as he ended a 12-year career in green and white on a high.

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A statement from Hibs read: “Everyone at Hibs is devastated by the loss of Jimmy, a true Hibs man and icon of Easter Road. In his passing, Hibernian has lost one of its best-loved sons. Jimmy, Jimmy O'Rourke, everyone knows his name. To the angels high above.”