Tributes to former City of Derry rugby coach Mike Balmer who died aged 73
Tributes have been paid to a colourful character whose passion for sport in Londonderry during the Troubles spilled into everything he was involved with.
Former City of Derry Rugby Club coach Mike Balmer (73) passed away suddenly on Monday.
Club trustee Mark McFeely said that he would be sorely missed.
Mr Balmer came to Derry in the mid-1960s from Newcastle to play the round ball game for Derry City.
"Right from the early days when he first came to play professional football he stood out," said Mr McFeely.
"He had long blond hair and a suntan and was always in his shorts.
"He would have been the first to tell you about his dazzling good looks and how all the girls in Derry were running after him."
A few years after he arrived in the city he met and married Jenny, whose brother was involved with rugby.
"That led to Mr Balmer's involvement with City of Derry Rugby Club," said Mr McFeely.
"He just played rugby socially during the 1970s when his time with football was up and has been with us since.
"Mike was invited to become a coach with the first team in the Eighties and even after he retired I don't think he missed a match, either home or away.
"He was so passionate and certainly didn't mince his words - nor did he hold back from telling the referees what he thought of them, and quite a few of them went home under no illusions.
"The passion Mike had for rugby spilled over into everything he was involved with - he was that kind of a man.
"Mike was the sort of guy that if you met him when you were feeling down, half-an-hour in his company and your mood would definitely have been lifted.
"He had a great vibrancy about him and he did come though some hard times later in his life, especially with the loss of his wife Jenny, who he was devoted to.
"Mike was always a real family man and devoted, too, to his son, daughter and his grandchildren.
"It was a tremendous shock to hear he had passed away and he will be sadly missed at the club."
Mr Balmer will be laid to rest at Ballyoan Cemetery in the Waterside following a service at his home in Drumahoe at 11am tomorrow.