Belfast Telegraph

Derry City captain Ryan McBride was a Trojan warrior, manager tells funeral

Derry City football captain Ryan McBride was a Trojan warrior, his manager has said.

He wore the club's jersey with great pride and the game will not be the same without him, Kenny Shiels added.

The "fearless" defender was found dead at home on Sunday night, aged 27. The cause of death is unknown.

President of Ireland Michael D Higgins was among hundreds who attended Requiem Mass at St Columba's Long Tower Catholic Church in Londonderry, hours before former Stormont deputy first minster Martin McGuinness's funeral in the same church.

Mr Shiels read an emotional tribute poem: "Our Trojan warrior, you have run your last race; In your absence we will never forget; The one and the only - our top Candystripe."

Crowds who had spilled out into the churchyard and the road beyond applauded.

The team colours of red, white and black were ubiquitous.

Team-mates walked alongside the hearse as it approached from the Brandywell area, where McBride lived in the shadow of his home ground. Later they pinned the jersey on to it and followed the coffin on its last journey to the cemetery.

Flowers in the hearse said "Captain" and depicted his number 5 jersey.

The Pride of Northside supporters' club carried a banner with a photograph of him in full flight.

A woman clutched a corner of the flag and dabbed tears away with a handkerchief.

The crowds poured into the area decked out in red, white and black scarves and wool hats, dressed for attending a match, but with funereal faces.

Mr Shiels added: "Our Brandywell Boy, you wore stripes with great pride; You made it so happy to be by your side; In your absence we still feel you here, the big number 5, so vivid and so clear. "

He said the team loved him with all their hearts.

"A giant so gentle, now we are apart; In your absence we will still play the game, but in your absence it won't be the same."

Fr Aidan Mullan said McBride was an athlete in his prime who had thrilled supporters over the last seven years since he began playing for the club.

He told the mourners: "Ryan would put his head where other players would not put their boot."

He was an inspirational leader in the dressing room and on the field, with quick reflexes and a competitive spirit, the priest added, and was pivotal to Derry's "perfect" start to the season.

McBride was a firm favourite with fans thanks in part to his committed defending.

He played more than 100 league matches for Derry.

His last match was a 4-0 triumph over Drogheda United in the League of Ireland Premier Division on Saturday, the top league in the Republic of Ireland.

Tributes will be paid at this weekend's internationals involving the Republic and Northern Ireland.

This is the latest tragedy to strike Derry City FC in just over a year.

Ex-striker Mark Farren died aged 33 in February last year. Derry's record goalscorer had been receiving treatment for an aggressive brain tumour.

A year ago, another Derry player, Josh Daniels, lost his mother, sister, brother-in-law and nephews in the Buncrana pier tragedy. A car slid off the pier and entered Lough Swilly.

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