Belfast Telegraph

Players and supporters of Derry City honour tragic skipper Ryan

By Leona O'Neill

Last week Ryan McBride's team-mates walked solemnly behind his jersey-draped coffin to his final resting place, a grave overlooking his beloved Brandywell stadium.

Last night they ran out onto the pitch at their temporary home of Maginn Park in Buncrana with him on their hearts, literally.

For every one of them had '5, McBride' emblazoned on their chests, next to their club crest, directly over their hearts.

The squad travelled by car, allowing Ryan's family members to make the poignant journey to watch the team he led until his death two weeks ago take to the field - without their fallen captain - for the game against Bray Wanderers.

On the road leading to the pitch, home owners placed Derry flags in gardens, from their windows and draped over walls, demonstrating that the 'Gentle Giant' McBride was a man who touched the hearts of many, football fan or not.

As the family entered Maginn Park, City's substitute home while The Brandywell undergoes major refurbishment, they were met by a sea of Candystripes as fans turned out in their hundreds to support the family and the team left devastated by the loss of their skipper.

Huge banners adorned with Ryan's face were pinned to the fences, ensuring no one forgot exactly who this night and this fight was for.

There were tears and cheers as fans held aloft posters with Ryan's number '5' on them.

Many chanted "red and white army" and "our captain number five" as members of Derry City youth squads stood in a number five formation on the pitch before kick-off.

Junior members of the City Cubs released red and white balloons into the sky above Buncrana in honour of their hero and captain.

As the strains of The Undertones' Teenage Kicks rang out, the Derry City team, led by new captain Gerard Doherty, ran on to the pitch wearing black armbands with the number five on them. Their opponents from Co Wicklow wore training tops with Ryan's number on the back.

A minute's applause rang out for the fallen hero, and more applause broke out in the fifth minute of the fifth game of the season.

Watching from the sidelines were Ryan's Dad Lexie, wearing his son's training jacket, his sisters Colleen, Siuinin and Caitlain, and his partner Mairead.

Derry manager Kenny Shiels said his captain was very much in the hearts of his team last night as they took to the pitch, but that his team "would do Ryan proud and finish the job we started with him".

"It is an emotional night for us," said Mr Shiels.

"I was just hoping that the boys would be OK.

"They have good character so I was confident that they would pull through and put on a good performance. You can't see how a person feels with these emotional imbalances. All you can do is look and see, and they look OK.

"They are supporting each other through this. They are there for each other.

"We are staying strong by working hard together, that's how we do it.

"We are out there on the field doing it, not necessarily for Ryan, but for ourselves, which Ryan is a part of. I know he is here with us tonight.

"We are all wearing the jerseys with his number five on the front. He is in all the boys' hearts."

Karen Pyne, from the Brandywell Pride Supporters Club, said that although everyone was heartbroken, they were behind the shattered team.

"It was heartbreaking to be here, but I had to be here," she said. "I'm so glad our boys worked so hard and made him proud. These last two weeks have been an absolutely nightmare. There are no words to described it, apart from numbing."

Simon Devlin, who has supported Derry City since he was 10 years old, said it was a "very hard night".

"I have supported this team through thick and thin," he said.

"But this is one of the worst tragedies to hit the team, alongside the death of Mark Farren.

"We have faced some tough times, but the fans will stick by the team, no matter what."

Fan Declan Lane said the team would have extra fire in their bellies.

"Standing here seeing the banners for Ryan, the reality of what happened is sinking in," he said.

"There is a lot of pressure on the lads on the pitch. But they have fire in their belly and they are stronger because they want to embrace Ryan's legacy and make him proud."

Ryan's team-mates Aaron McEneff and Dean Jarvis put two goals in the back of the net for their lost skipper, but Bray bagged the 3-2 victory in added time, finishing off a tough night for the Derry squad.

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