Billy Whiteside passed away 'surrounded by friends' as tributes pour in for Crusaders supporter
Cobh Rangers 0 Crusaders 3
Any pride Crusaders were feeling as they returned home from Scotland at the weekend was tinged with immense sadness after tragic events at Station Park, Forfar.
Billy Whiteside, the father of Crusaders treasurer Tommy, collapsed after suffering a suspected heart attack and medics were unable to revive him.
Play was halted for around 10 minutes but the news of a tragic loss of life filtered through to the players and management leaving everyone stunned.
Crusaders players still managed to produce a performance that everyone associated with the club can be proud of and their 3-0 victory over Highland League side Cove Rangers puts their name in tomorrow's quarter-final draw.
Michael Carvill struck the opener just before half-time and the visitors had a numerical advantage from the 55th minute when Scott Ross was sent off for a second bookable offence.
Jamie Glackin's first Crusaders goal five minutes later had the Danske Bank Premiership side cruising towards victory and Declan Caddell rounded off the scoring in injury time.
Despite an impressive win on Scottish soil, any football talk seemed hollow in the light of Billy Whiteside's sudden passing.
"It is terrible and tragic news," said Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter. "This football club will support him through this difficult time as best we can. It's been tough for everyone. Tommy organised this trip to Scotland and to lose his father in this manner is the most tragic news. He will have our support."
Crusaders Chairman Stephen Bell commented: "Billy was a lifelong supporter from a strong Crusaders family. He was telling us that he first came to Seaview with his father in the 1949-50 season, Crusaders' first season in the senior Irish League. Billy has been a good humoured jocular presence at Seaview (and across all the league's grounds) ever since. He has also travelled with the club across Europe.
"On behalf of the club, I would like to thank the efforts of the medical and ambulance staff. It's a sad day for our club, but it will be a comfort that Billy passed away surrounded by friends. Billy will be sorely missed and we would convey our condolences to our esteemed treasurer, Tommy, and the entire family circle. Billy's passing will be marked appropriately at our next home fixture."
Tributes from Irish League players and fans poured in over the weekend. "Thinking of the family of the Crusaders fan who sadly passed away today," said Cliftonville striker Joe Gormley.
Baxter added: "With respect to the game, we didn't know much about Cove Rangers so we felt them out but in the first 30 minutes we realised we could get at them and cause them problems.
"There is that feeling we are representing the Irish League as well as ourselves in this competition and we have not come here to lose. I made a number of changes to the team but was still confident we could win the game and progress. We wanted to reach the latter stages and we have done that, now we will see who awaits us in the quarter-final draw and how far we can go."
Cove Rangers: McKenzie, Ross, Milne, Watson, Kelly, Strachan (Scully, 70 mins), Park (Redford, 56 mins), Campbell, Burnett, Masson (Stott, 76 mins), Megginson.
Crusaders: Dougherty, Burns, McChrystal, Beverland, Brown (McClean, 46 mins), Carvill (Whyte, 87 mins), Caddell, Forsythe, Snoddy, Cushley, Glackin (Owens, 77 mins).
Referee: Paul McLaughlin.