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He was an amazing father... Wife pays tribute to former Derry City footballer Thomas Burke

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Much-loved: Thomas Burke

Much-loved: Thomas Burke

Much-loved: Thomas Burke

The wife of a Londonderry footballer who died suddenly has paid a moving tribute to a "gentle caring giant".

Thomas Burke (31) passed away on Thursday.

He was husband to Bronagh and had two young children, twins Adam and Aoife.

Describing the love for her husband and the strength she has taken from their children following his passing, Bronagh said: "Thomas 'Burkey' my beautiful husband was not only my soul mate, he was my companion and my breaths when I needed them most.

"We have as a married couple endured so much pain, but also so much joy through our 13 years together.

"He is not only the most amazing father to our gorgeous twins, but he would be so proud of them in his final moments.

"The bravery they witnessed no adult nor child should witness.

"Burkey is my rock, my forever soul partner.

"The best there ever will be. A gentle caring giant."

Mr Burke had been involved in football throughout most of his life, playing for a range of clubs including spells with Irish League team Ballymena United and Derry City.

He was also closely associated with Londonderry-based Trojans Football Club, both as a youth player and most recently as an under age coach.

News of his passing has led to an outpouring of tributes from clubs across the north west amateur football scene, with the father-of-two described as someone who "loved life" and was a big inspiration to the children he coached.

On Friday evening, Trojans FC held a minute's applause from a safe social distance for the much-loved coach at the club.

A video was also posted on social media with children from the club reflecting on how much they would miss the popular player.

In a statement on Facebook they described how he joined as a young boy, before gradually making his way through the ranks.

"Be it training or playing, he gave his all for our very traditional royal blue shirt. He loved it and you know it showed in his play," they wrote.

"He learned to play in a couple of positions, nothing fazed him. Thomas was such a solid and good person, growing up through the years he was so level headed you'd never hear anyone speak badly of him.

"In more recent times he was seen taking our U5 and U6 players at training.

"Needless to say he was loved by all the children and their parents. Thomas had that calming way with them. He will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him.

"To his wife Bronagh, children Adam and Aoife, his parents Linda and Thomas, sister Rachel and the wider Burke and Deehan family circles, we extend our deepest sympathy and condolences."

Having made three appearances for Ballymena United FC in 2008, the club issued a statement on its website extending sympathy to Mr Burke's family along with their "thoughts and prayers".

Joining a host of other names within the Derry football fraternity, his friend Declan Divin, a coach at Creggan Swifts FC, also paid tribute on social media.

He wrote: "RIP Thomas. Had the pleasure knowing you a long time.

"Everyone involved with Creggan, players and management, would like to pass on condolences to his wife and children and whole Burke family circle.

"Thomas loved life. He was always positive and enjoyed stopping for a chat. He loved football, but more importantly he was a family man. Hard to believe you're gone buddy, rest easy."

Belfast Telegraph