Belfast Telegraph

Buncrana pier tragedy: Football has helped me cope with my loss, says Derry City star Josh

By Claire O'Boyle

Josh Daniels, whose mother and sister died in the Buncrana Pier tragedy along with his young nephews and brother-in-law, has told for the first time how football has helped him deal with his heartache.

As the anniversary of the devastating accident approaches, the Derry City midfielder said while some people thought returning to the field after a matter of weeks was too much too soon, it was the right thing for him.

"I did what I felt was right," said Josh, who turned 21 last week.

"I also knew what they would have felt was right for me to do. They would have wanted me to do this."

His mum Ruth Daniels (59) and 14-year-old sister Jodie-Lee used to come along to his matches to cheer him on.

They died along with nephews Mark (12), eight-year-old Evan, and their dad Sean McGrotty (49) when their car slipped on algae and plunged into the waters of Lough Swilly.

"They were my biggest supporters, 100%," Josh said.

"I kept saying to my friends and whoever told me it was too soon to go back: 'Time doesn't stop for anybody, especially not me'.

"It's been a massive loss, it's been traumatic, but I'm a footballer and I want to play football, and they would have wanted me to get back playing.

"I didn't want to be in the team for sympathetic reasons. I was fighting for my place and I still am. I need to try and kick on this year. I'm 21 now and this is my fifth season with Derry.

"I want to cement my place in the squad," he told the Derry Journal.

"A massive part of football and being young is learning how to deal with all the things that come your way.

"Last year I had to deal with something thrown my way and I have to overcome everything, otherwise I'm going to crumble."

Returning to the sport after two weeks, Josh credits his team-mates, Derry City fans and manager Kenny Shiels for helping him through the past difficult year.

"It was just second nature, I had to go back and play," he said. "It gave me motivation more than anything."

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