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Ulster Rugby mourning for dedicated fan Jamie Donaldson

By Rebecca Black

Ulster Rugby has been left in shock after one of its most devoted supporters passed away.

Jamie Donaldson had been a regular at matches and meet the player events.

Although he used a wheelchair, Jamie (26) travelled widely to support his beloved team.

He died peacefully in the Royal Victoria Hospital on Friday.

Ulster star Ruan Pienaar dedicated Saturday's win over Cardiff to Jamie, and the team wore black armbands.

"I think, for all of us, it was a massive shock when we were on the way to the airport to get the news that Jamie had passed away," said Pienaar.

Winger Craig Gilroy described Jamie as "a fantastic supporter of Ulster Rugby - an inspiration".

The Ulster Rugby Supporters Club described Jamie, from Dromore, as one of its most respected and recognisable members.

"Jamie was a regular at the URSC information point pre-match, a frequent front row attendee at our meet the player events and consumer at our BBQs," the club said.

"However, it was watching Ulster play that Jamie loved more than anything else. He was a frequent traveller - wherever Ulster played, Jamie, Dad John and Mum Pearl could be seen."

The club said Jamie was a favourite of the players. "Of course it was post-match that Jamie's love of Ulster and the Ulster players' love of Jamie was played out in public," it said.

"Whilst others waited on tenterhooks for a possible glimpse of their heroes, an autograph or a selfie, the players invariably made a beeline to Jamie for a personal chat - indeed he was something of a hero to them. They were frequently rewarded with Jamie's famous distribution of post-match Mars bars! They will miss him, we will miss him."

In a 2009 interview Jamie's father John said he had known John Best - the father of players Simon and Rory - for a long time, although Jamie was unaware of his rugby connection. "Then one night, when there was an Ulster match on television, I just happened to say that if he kept watching he'd see one of John's sons coming on.

"Jamie's ears pricked up at that. He asked me where the match was taking place and I told him it was at Ravenhill.

"There and then he wanted to know if we could go, and when I told him that the match would be over before we could get there his next question was: 'Can we go next time?' And that was it."

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