President leads tributes to Derry City captain Ryan McBride

‘He was a ferociously brave player. He was the bravest player I ever saw on a pitch’

Derry City’s  Ryan McBride celebrates scoring a a goal against Shamrock Rovers earlier this month. The club captain was found dead at his home on Sunday.  Photograph: Inpho

Derry City’s Ryan McBride celebrates scoring a a goal against Shamrock Rovers earlier this month. The club captain was found dead at his home on Sunday. Photograph: Inpho

 

President Michael D Higgins has led tributes to Derry City’s captain Ryan McBride who died suddenly on Sunday.

“Along with all those who support Irish football, I express my sadness and condolences to the family of @derrycityfc Captain Ryan McBride,” the President tweeted.

Derry City officials, supporters and many of those involved in Irish football have expressed shock to the news.

McBride’s former manager at Derry City Stephen Kenny said the death was “a real, real tragedy.”

“He was just a good guy. He wore his heart on his sleeve. He was a shy individual, a really decent guy.

“As a player he was very committed. He just launched himself at every challenge, to a fault almost, and that’s what endeared him to everyone,” he told RTE’s Morning Ireland programme.

Kenny said McBride had taken an unconventional route to League of Ireland football. “He was playing on a Saturday league team and it was a massive jump to go from there to the first team.”

The McBride family home backs on to the Derry City pitch and that Kenny said he had teased McBride that he could watch the games from his bedroom window.

“He was a ferociously brave player. He was the bravest player I ever saw on a pitch.”

Meanwhile FAI CEO John Delaney said: “Irish football is in mourning with the loss of a true great of the game.

“I would like to pass on my deepest condolences to Ryan’s family, friends, and his club, Derry City FC, for which he was their leader, their captain and their inspiration.”

Also speaking on Morning Ireland, Liam Coyle, a former player at the club who retains strong links with City and the current squad through his media work, described McBride as “a warrior on the football pitch”.

The 27 year-old was, he said, “an icon and an idol for everybody in the community.”

The former striker went on to highlight the fact that this is the third tragedy to befall those associated with the club over the past year with another popular former player, Mark Farren having died after a long battle with cancer in February 2016 while young midfielder Josh Daniels lost his mother, sister, brother-in-law and two nephews in the Buncrana pier disaster.

“It just beggars belief how much can befall one football club, one community.”

Current City chairman Philip O’Doherty admitted that: “This news is so hard to take in.

“He started the season so well,” he said, “and scored a really important goal against Shamrock Rovers recently. The players and management staff are in shock and it’s an extremely tough time for everyone.”

McBride was, he said, “a leader on and off the field. He was incredibly respected. He was an ideal captain. He was from the Brandywell area and he just walked across the road to his home after every game.”

On Sunday crowds gathered outside his family home in Bluebell Hill Gardens as news of his death spread.

McBride was a popular figure regarded as a good choice for club captain and when re-signing him for the new season a few months ago, Derry City manager, Kenny Shiels, observed: “Ryan’s a player we feel is not only the captain of the team but is influential and leads by example.”

McBride, who turned 27 in December, had played 177 games for his club, 57 of them as captain and scored 13 goals. His return to the side over the past few weeks, after missing a portion of last season through injury, had been regarded as a key factor in City’s strong start to the new campaign with Kenny Shiels’ side winning all four of their opening games.

The 27 year-old had played twice for the club this week, in the wins against Dundalk and Drogheda United, but had been said to have felt unwell after the games.

There were many tributes paid to him on social media with players from around the league as well as other clubs offering their condolences to his family and friends.

Northern Ireland international Daniel Lafferty, a former teammate at Derry City, said he was “devastated” to hear the news and the club itself tweeted a portrait of the player with the simple caption: “Captain Fantastic”.

Derry had been due to play a rescheduled game against Limerick on Tuesday evening.

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