Tragic Derry City skipper was inspiration to many, mourners are told
Derry City captain Ryan McBride was an inspirational role model who had so much more still to give, mourners at his funeral heard yesterday.
Irish President Michael D Higgins was among the 3,000 gathered at St Columba's Church to pay their final respects to the 27-year-old. Mr McBride, a fans' hero with his hometown club, passed away last Sunday night. His death sent shockwaves throughout the footballing fraternity across Londonderry, Ireland and beyond.
Many key figures from Irish football had travelled to Derry to pay their final respects, among them Paddy McCourt, the former Derry City, Celtic and Northern Ireland player.
John Delaney, chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland, and Roddy Collins, a former manager with Derry City, were also in attendance.
Mr McBride's team-mates carried his coffin, draped in his number five football shirt, into the packed church as his father Lexie, partner Mairead, and sisters Colleen, Siuinin and Caitlin looked on.
The Bishop of Derry, Donal McKeown, along with a number of priests from across the city celebrated Requiem Mass, where the chief celebrant was Fr Aidan Mullan.
In his homily, Fr Mullan, the parish priest of St Columba's, asked the congregation to reflect on the courage and bravery of Mr McBride which made him a role model for younger generations.
He said: "When we reflect on Ryan's life, we think of him at the outset. We think of him as an athlete in his prime, who achieved much and still had great potential, a versatile and accomplished footballer, who brought thrilling moments to so many Derry City supporters, and across Ireland, over seven years.
"The club management, the team and the supporters all have been caught up in his natural footballing ability, in his courageous play. As has been said many times, Ryan would put his head where other players would not put their boot. He was brave and he knew no fear.
"As captain he was an inspirational leader in the dressing room and on the field of play."
Ryan made his debut for Derry City aged 21, and played more than 100 league matches.
He was a fans' favourite on the terraces of the Brandywell. Fr Mullan added: "In the last several weeks Ryan was pivotal in great performances and contributed greatly to Derry's perfect start to the season - his quick reflexes, heady play and competitive spirit made him a great role model for many young boys and girls as well as Derry City supporters and fans throughout the area."
He reminded the congregation that although Mr McBride was known to thousands because of his prowess as a talented footballer, he was an integral part of a very loving family who were left with many unanswered questions.
Fr Mullan added: "His unexpected death has impacted on his nearest, and on all of us, as an appalling shock. We cannot fully take in the reality even as we carry out our funeral rites for our beloved Ryan. Over and above the grief experienced at this time of heartbreak, there persists some anguished questions, why did it have to happen, could Ryan's death have been prevented and why has this been done to us?"
Derry City boss Kenny Shiels paid a tearful final tribute, reading a specially written poem which drew applause.