Friends pay tribute to Bangor rugby player
The funeral of local rugby player Graeme Ryans is set to take place this week.
Mr Ryans, from Balmoral Court in Bangor, died at the weekend as he played touch rugby with fellow members of Bangor Rugby Club.
The 31-year-old, who was married with two young children, suddenly collapsed during a game at the Ballymacormick Road ground in the town.
Mr Ryans was taken to the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald, but never regained consciousness.
It is believed the former seconds captain may have suffered a heart attack. As The CT went to press, the results of an autopsy had yet been released to determine the exact cause of death.
His funeral service will take place on Thursday at Roselawn Cemetery in Belfast at 9.30am.
A spokesman at Bangor Rugby Club said Mr Ryans was a Bangor man “through and through”.
“The death of Graeme has been tragic,” he said. “We have been getting calls from as far as New Zealand such was his popularity. He was a well-liked man.”
Mr Ryans had been a member of Bangor Rugby Club since he was a youngster and according to the spokesman was “as fit as he’d been in (the club) a long while”.
Craig Cooper, second team coach, said that everyone was still “shocked” and “devastated”.
“He was a fantastic club man and family man as well,” he said.
“He will be greatly missed by everyone who knew him. My condolences go out to his family.”
Club chairman Norman Gault said: “Everybody at the club is shocked and saddened that this has happened.
“It hasn’t sunk in with a lot of people. He was a very well-liked guy. It was a total surprise for everyone.
“It’s a very, very sad loss of the club and a very sad loss for his family.”
Mr Ryans was a teacher at Lakewood Special School on the Rathgael Road.
A statement from the school read: “All of us at Lakewood are shocked by Graeme’s death. Graeme was enthusiastic about life and loved to talk about his family and his rugby.
“He had a lovely way of working with our young people and his death will leave a huge gap in many lives. Our hearts go out to his family.”
North Down Councillor Peter Weir said he was “shocked and stunned” at news.
“This is a tragedy which has shocked the whole town and at this difficult time our prayers should be with his wife and family,” he said.
“To lose someone so young is a bitter blow, and it will be particularly hard on his wife and two young children.
“This has cast a huge shadow both over the club and the town as a whole.”