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Candystripes chief: We will be there for heartbroken Joshua


Joshua Daniels at the funeral

Joshua Daniels at the funeral

Derry City manager Kenny Shiels

Derry City manager Kenny Shiels


Mark Farren with wife Terri-Louise

Mark Farren with wife Terri-Louise

Pacemaker Belfast


Joshua Daniels at the funeral

This afternoon, the crowd at the League of Ireland at Crossabeg match between Wexford Youths and Derry City will have an unmistakable poignancy.

Prior to kick-off, there will be a respectful minute's silence for the victims of the Buncrana pier tragedy last weekend, when five family members lost their lives as the car they were in slid off the slipway into Lough Swilly.

The Derry City players will pause to think of team-mate Joshua Daniels, who has been with the club since childhood, who lost his sister Jodi-Lee (14), his mother Ruth, his nephews Mark (12) and Evan (8), and their father Sean McGrotty.

Grief like this - unimaginable, unfair, unfathomable - has become widespread in Derry City circles. Only last month, all-time top scorer Mark Farren died after a brave struggle with cancer, aged 33.

Derry City manager Kenny Shiels spoke of the sadness.

"A few weeks ago, we had the Mark Farren death. The boys have been through it in such a short space of time and now they are going through it again.

"Now, that's nothing in the context of what the family is going through. You can't talk about what the boys have gone through, because it is the family going through it." He added: "The families around Mark and Josh, they have suffered way more than us. We can't start feeling sorry for ourselves."

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At times like these, the community can only throw their arms around those affected. What good it does, nobody can be certain, but Derry City has always had the feel of a family club.

Shiels has the emotional intelligence to realise that.

"We find ourselves in the situation where one of our members and one of our football family have suffered the most atrocious and tragic events in a lifetime. That particular person is only a young person who is growing up himself," he said of Joshua.

"He is still only 19. We have to look at how we can support him. At every junction, we have to make sure we are there for him.

"It will not be logical for him, because there are so many gaps in his life now that he has to try and fill. It's devoid of the pastoral care that he got from his mother, the love he has for his family as well, the absence of that. It's so difficult. I could only imagine how difficult it would be for him."

Although he admits he is not a counsellor, Shiels has some insight into the human condition, with a psychology degree from Warwick University. His life experiences are many and varied.

In a sporting sense, he was central to the eerie atmosphere at the final whistle of the 2012 Scottish League Cup final. His Kilmarnock side had just beaten Celtic in the final, but midfielder Liam Kelly's father died in the game's closing stages, an experience he calls "harrowing."

While manager of Greenock Morton, the match against Queen of the South was abandoned after 10 minutes when a spectator dropped dead.

As to how to deal with these events, Shiels said: "You want to give support, first and foremost, as a manager. A manager is a father figure about a football club and you want to try and give them support, emotional support. You don't know what you can do to help them, because what can you say when you are talking to young Josh? What can you say? You can't create a 'let's try and get happy' mood.

"I am not a counsellor. I have my psychology background, but I am not in a situation to help him deal with grief. The most difficult thing is to deal with grief and all families go through it.

"It's difficult to put yourself in Josh's position. It's incredible what's happened to the boy and his family and sister Louise. It's gut-wrenching."

On Thursday, Shiels attended the five funerals in Ballymagroarty, Derry. He said: "It's been really difficult and you do identify with your own family when you are thinking like that. Things were so sad yesterday, honest to God, you couldn't put it into words. Things must be awful for the family. You couldn't start to think how they are feeling because their emotions must be all over the place."

When they take to the field tonight, all they can do is play the game with honesty. Before that, there will be that universally-acknowledged minute's silence, which Shiels believes will be repeated across the country over the weekend at sporting fixtures.

"I was at a game last night in Dublin (St Pat's v Dundalk) and it just opens your eyes to how worldwide the thing is. There was a minute's silence last night, and we have played about four matches with a minute's silence.

"The whole of Ireland is touched by it. I am sure all the Gaelic matches will have a minutes' silence, anyone in proximity to Derry, Donegal, everybody will be playing their tributes and showing their respect."

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