Belfast Telegraph

Reflective Shiels a fine ambassador for city

Editor's Viewpoint

Like Caesar, Kenny Shiels has every reason to beware the month of March. For, as with the ill-fated Roman leader, it is a month in the life of the Derry City football manager which has been attended by tragedy and death.

By ghastly coincidence, three tragedies each occurred on the third Sunday of the month. Most recently it was the death of the club's captain, Ryan McBride. A year earlier, it was five relatives of player Josh Daniels - his mother, sister, two nephews and a brother-in-law drowned in a freak accident at Buncrana pier.

And five years ago the father of a Kilmarnock player - then managed by Kenny - died as the team won a trophy at Hampden Park in Scotland.

In his most intimate and emotionally charged interview ever, which we publish today, it is evident that Kenny has been deeply wounded by these events. He sees himself not simply as a team manager, but someone who has a pastoral care of the players, a person who shares in their triumphs and heartbreaks.

It is easy to imagine that footballers live in a bubble, somehow immune from the trials of life, whose greatest tragedy is losing a match. Of course, that is not true and the recent bereavements at Derry City - a former player Mark Farren died from an aggressive brain tumour in February last year - show that the club has seen more than its fair share of sorrow.

And the same is true of Kenny himself - his brother David was shot dead, apparently in a case of mistaken identity, by the IRA in 1990.

As he says when death comes to one's own door, outsiders grieve for a time, but families bear the hurt every day for the rest of their lives.

So it is with Ryan's family and with Josh. Both experienced huge outpourings of grief in the city after their respective tragedies, but even the best wishes of well-wishers fade with time, and then they have to continue.

Kenny puts it well: "You don't move on, you go on." He knows that as every bereaved person knows. And part of his job now is to help Ryan's team-mates, including Josh, to keep going on.

He spoke eloquently at Ryan's funeral in a poem he had written. It was his best way of telling the player's family of how much Ryan meant to Derry City and of how he shared their feelings of grief and loss.

Kenny has bared his soul in this interview. He is full of praise for the club, the city and the people. They too should be proud of him.

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