Shock at sudden death of ‘natural leader’ Paul McCarthy

There has been widespread shock and sadness in football here and in Britain following the sudden death, at just 45, of former Ireland U21 international Paul McCarthy.

Shock at sudden death of ‘natural leader’ Paul McCarthy

Warm tributes have also been paid by his former clubs and team-mates, as well as many supporters, to a man who was a very popular personality in the game.

The Cork-born centre-half played on the same Rockmount schoolboy team as Roy Keane, and the club yesterday said they were “deeply saddened” to hear of the passing of their former player.

In England, Paul made more than 200 appearances for Brighton before, in 1996, joining Wycombe Wanderers — just after Martin O’Neill had departed as manager — and, four years later, scoring one of the goals in a 2-0 victory over Leicester City which put his team through to the semi-finals of the FA Cup, where the club’s famous run in the competition was finally brought to an end by Liverpool.

In a statement, Wycombe yesterday described the man they called “Macca” as “a hero of our 2000/01 FA Cup run” and said they were deeply saddened at the news of his death.

“He leaves a legacy never to be forgotten,” they added, noting that he had scored 19 times in 259 appearances for the club.

Wycombe also announced that they are compiling tributes to “one of the greats” for inclusion in the match programme for Saturday’s game against Crawley Town.

After Wycombe, Paul went on to play for Oxford United, Hornchurch and Ebbsfleet, the latter with whom, as captain, he lifted the FA Trophy at Wembley in 2008.

Former Oxford manager Ian Atkins paid a glowing tribute to the Corkman, saying: “I had about 15 diamonds there at Oxford, great lads who were a pleasure to work with and all stuck closely together. But he was one of the ones that shone the brightest.

“He was a natural leader and had a great football brain. Sometimes I’d just look his way on the pitch and he would know what I was thinking and get the message across to the other players for me.”

Ex-Oxford team-mate Scott McNiven summed up the feelings of many when he said: “Paul was as hard as nails on the pitch and one of the loveliest blokes off it. He couldn’t do enough for you. He was much loved in the changing room.”

Former Ireland international Liam Daish, who played and managed with Paul at Ebbsfleet, said on Twitter that he was “at a loss for words at the news my skipper, my assistant, my mate Paul McCarthy has passed away. Sleep well, big man.”

In a statement expressing their condolences, the club described him as “a great skipper and an immense person.”

On behalf of the FAI, chief executive John Delaney also paid his respects to the former underage Ireland international, saying: “Paul was part of the team that competed at the 1991 Fifa World Youth Championships in Portugal and went on to represent Ireland at U21 level, as well as forging a strong career in England at club level.

“We send our deepest condolences to Paul’s family at this difficult time.”

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