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Manchester attack: Northern Ireland stars join sporting tributes to victims

Northern Ireland sporting heroes have joined both of Manchester's Premier League clubs in extending 'thoughts and prayers' to the victims of the Manchester Arena attack.

An explosion as Ariana Grande finished her concert left 22 dead and 59 people injured, sending the city into shock that has reverberated across the world.

Northern Ireland captain Steve Davis called it a "Sickening attack on innocent people. Thoughts & prayers with everyone affected".

World number two golfer Rory McIlroy said "This makes me so angry and sad at the same time. Thoughts and prayers with everyone in Manchester at this horrific time."

And Northern Ireland's former two-weight world champion boxer Carl Frampton tweeted: "Targeting a concert full of children. Sick! Sympathies with everyone who's been affected and with the people of Manchester".

The club flags at both Old Trafford and the Etihad Stadium are being flown at half-mast and both City and United have paid tribute in club statements.

City said the "thoughts and prayers of (the) ownership, Board and everyone at Manchester City are with the people of Manchester and all those affected following the horrifying events of last night's Manchester Arena attack."

"We have offered our full support throughout the night and this morning to the leaders of the City of Manchester itself and to the Emergency Services who are doing so much to support our city in these most challenging of circumstances," continued the statement.

"The Etihad Stadium is being used as a support centre following the tragic events and Greater Manchester Police have advised that anyone needing assistance relating to the attack can access that help at the Etihad Stadium via Gate 11."

Meanwhile, Manchester United confirmed that the Megastore, Museum, Red Cafe and Stadium Tour are all closed to the public today as the club are 'deeply shocked' by the 'terrible events'.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected, including our supporters, club staff and members of our community such as the children from our Manchester United Foundation partner schools who were attending the concert at the Arena," said their statement.

"Club staff are ready to help the police and other emergency services in any way that may be required at this challenging time for our city.

"Greater Manchester Police have provided an emergency number for those who are concerned about loved ones or anyone who may have been in the area. The number is 0161 856 9400.

"The police are asking people to be alert and to report any suspicious activity on the Anti-Terrorist Hotline 0800 789321 or by dialling 999. Anyone who may have images or footage from last night that could aid the investigation should upload them to Ukpoliceimageappeal.co.uk or Ukpoliceimageappeal.com.

"People who wish to help by donating blood can do so at several medical centres in Manchester. For opening times and locations, see https://my.blood.co.uk/SessionFinder or call 0300 123 23 23."

A host of players from the two clubs and beyond have also taken to Twitter to express their shock.

"Shocking events for this great city. My thoughts and prayers are with the families," said City's Raheem Sterling while team-mate Vincent Kompany said: "I would like to express my deepest condolences to the families of the victims. It's a sad day for the great city of Manchester. #Unity"

Wayne Rooney said "Devastating news this morning. Thoughts and prayers are with all those affected."

United winger and Manchester boy Jesse Lingard said: "My thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by last nights attack on this beautiful city. We will stand together in this dark hour ❤"

And Manchester United's Europa League final opponents Ajax said: "From Amsterdam with love to Manchester. Our thoughts are with the victims and the loved ones of those affected."️

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