Jimmy Magill was born in County Antrim, Northern Ireland in 1939. He began his career with Portadown but moved to Arsenal in May 1959. He made his debut for the side against Sheffield Wednesday on 19 December 1959. A right back, he was seen as a potential replacement for the injured Dennis Evans and played for most of the rest of that season, but lost his place in 1960-61 to Len Wills and Dave Bacuzzi. He regained the right-back spot the following season, 1961-62, sharing it with Bacuzzi, before securing the place for good in 1962-63. In the meantime, he made his debut for Northern Ireland, and won 26 caps for his country in total.
Known for his passing and ball control, he kept his place in the Arsenal side until the signing of Don Howe at the end of 1963-64. Relegated to the reserves, Jimmy only made one more first-team appearance for Arsenal over the next fifteen months, mainly playing for the reserve team instead. He eventually joined Brighton & Hove Albion in October 1965. He played 56 matches for the Seagulls between 1965 and 1968.
Jimmy returned to Northern Ireland in 1968.