Derry mourns favourite son Ryan McBride

“He wasn’t just our captain or leader. He was our warrior on the park. But a gentleman off it. Devastated.” The words of Derry City team-mate Nicky Low summed up the loss and pain being felt across football following the death of Candystripes captain Ryan McBride.

Ryan McBride battling with Cork City's Mark O'Sullivan at Turners Cross. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

The 27-year-old died on Sunday night at his home in the shadow of the Brandywell. His body was discovered in his bedroom by his father, Lexie, on Sunday evening. McBride’s remains were being examined yesterday and results are expected within days.

His body was returned to Derry last night from Belfast and his funeral will take place at St Columba’s Church in Derry on Thursday.

The news has left the city numb, but the loss is being felt across Irish football landscape: “One of the toughest centre backs I’ve ever played against and some great battles with him. RIP Ryan McBride,” Cork City striker Seanie Maguire tweeted yesterday.

“RIP Ryan Mcbride!Thoughts and prayers with his family and Derry City,” Dundalk captain Stephen O’Donnell wrote.

Northern Ireland and Aberdeen star and former Derry City player Niall McGinn tweeted: “More Really Sad news to hear the passing of my old clubs @derrycityfc Captain Ryan McBride. Thoughts go out to his friends and family.”

FAI chief John Delaney called McBride a “true great of the game”.

Further afield, the likes of Gary Lineker, Robbie Fowler, and Stan Collymore paid tribute to McBride. The fans’ favourite lived beside his club’s Brandywell ground where he has played since 2011 and his club said he would be remembered by teammates and supporters as one of the greats.

A Derry City statement said: “Ryan was a player and a great captain but he was also their friend and teammate. They are deeply shocked and will miss his inspiration and his leadership.”

He leaves his “heartbroken” father Lexie, sisters Colleen, Siunin and Caitlain and partner Mairead.

The club added: “Our supporters are also shocked and saddened. To them, Ryan was Derry City through and through. The commitment and passion he brought on to the field is the bond that binds player and supporter. In the hearts and minds of all of us and long into the future Ryan McBride will be remembered as one of the greats of Derry City Football Club.”

His last match was a 4-0 triumph over Drogheda United in the League of Ireland Premier Division on Saturday. The club’s SSE Airtricity Premier League game against Limerick today was postponed.

The 27-year-old realised a dream when joining his home town club under former boss, Stephen Kenny.

Throughout yesterday, folk on Foyleside were slowing coming to terms with his death, rumours pointing to him feeling unwell before last Saturday’s game when he may have experienced chest pain, through to a possible asthma attack, an ailment of which he was a sufferer.

However, such tragedies have not been unusual to Derry City FC. The loss of the legend that was Mark Farren, due to an aggressive brain tumour, was followed by the Buncrana Pier disaster - one year ago yesterday - which saw Derry’s young striker, Josh Daniels, lose four members of his family who drowned when their car slipped into Lough Swilly in Buncrana.

For the club, currently boasting a 100% record in the 2017 campaign, with four wins from four - including wins over Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers in Dublin and reigning champions Dundalk and Drogheda in the Candystripes’ temporary home at Maginn Park - Derry will not be celebrating this week.

Derry’s undoubted captain fantastic was a much-loved player who played with his heart on his sleeve. Not noted for his technical ability, Ryan was the warrior who led by example. Not considered the modern ball playing centre-half, his strength lay in his no-nonsense defensive qualities. Robust and enthusiastic in the challenge, Ryan was a Derry man through and through.

Dreams of playing for Manchester United or Celtic never featured for the player who entered senior football as an adult apprentice.

Over recent years, most young players have developed in underage academies before gracing the senior scene - not Ryan McBride. No, he was picked up representing his local team, Brandywell Harps, in a local summer cup.

Stephen Kenny watched that game and immediately enquired about the player through his coaching staff.

Ryan, quiet and modest, had slipped through the net virtually unnoticed and his senior footballing education was about to commence.

As he often said when interviewed, “Every day is a school day for me,” when joining coaching sessions in the Brandywell: “My ambition was to play for Derry City and now that I’ve been appointed team captain, I’m floating on air,” he smiled during one such interview.

As captain, Ryan was never loud or over-demanding. He may not have done too much speaking but, on and off the field of play, he opted to do things in his own way.

Ryan lost his mother due to illness at a young age and he is survived by a father, Lexie, and two sisters, who have been devastated for a second time in their lives.

May he rest in peace.

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