Wave of grief as devastated Derry City players carry captain Ryan McBride's coffin home
Mourners applauded as tragic Derry City captain Ryan McBride was carried home by devastated team-mates last night.
The talismanic defender passed away on Sunday at his home, which sits in the shadow of the team's famous Brandywell stadium. He died a day after leading his side to a 4-0 victory over Drogheda United. A post-mortem was due to take place yesterday to establish the cause of death.
Last night there were emotional scenes as Ryan's body was borne amid a wave of grief to his native Brandywell.
Children and their parents wearing the red and white of the Candystripes stood in respectful silence.
His heartbroken father Lexie, sisters Colleen, Siuinin and Caitlain and partner Mairead are being comforted by relatives.
Tributes flooded in from the world of football and beyond, including from former England striker Robbie Fowler and Irish president Michael D Higgins.
The tragedy has been sorely felt among team-mates at Derry.
The devastated boss of Derry City broke down yesterday as he mourned the loss of his inspirational captain. An emotional Kenny Shiels said the 27-year-old was the perfect example to any footballer.
"It's hard for everybody to take. We keep saying through adversity we will get stronger, but this is going to be a difficult one for everyone in the city", he said. "The players, they loved Ryan, he was the perfect example to them coming through at 14 and 15 years old. Ryan never gave 99%."
It is the third tragedy to strike the club in just over a year.
Mark Farren, the team's record goalscorer, died last February aged just 33. He had been receiving treatment for an aggressive brain tumour. And a year ago Derry player Josh Daniels lost his mother, sister, brother-in-law and nephews in the Buncrana pier tragedy.
Ryan made his debut for the club aged 21, in May 2011, and played more than 100 league matches. After being made captain in 2015, he said: "Other footballers have dreams of going across the water and playing for Man United and Celtic. But my dream as a boy was to play for Derry City and that came true."
A tribute posted on Derry's Twitter page read simply: "Captain. Leader. Legend and absolute gentleman".
His club said he would be remembered by team-mates and supporters as one of the greats.
Derry City chief executive Sean Barrett said: "He led boys to become men and he was a man. He was everything that is associated with Derry City Football Club and indeed the whole city."
A tribute will be made at the Republic's World Cup qualifier against Wales on Friday.
Irish FA chief executive Patrick Nelson said: "The whole football family on the island of Ireland is shocked by the tragic news of Ryan McBride's passing. Our thoughts are with his family and with Derry City Football Club, its supporters and staff."
Former Wales striker John Hartson said: "Terribly sad news hearing Derry City footballer Ryan McBride has passed away."
Ex-Celtic striker Chris Sutton said it was "extremely sad news".
Away from football, DUP leader Arlene Foster expressed her "deepest condolences", adding it was "such devastating news".
Catholic primate and Derry native Archbishop Eamon Martin also tweeted condolences.
Ryan's funeral will take place on Thursday morning at St Columba's Church in Derry.