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Harry's legacy will live on as a host of true greats show their respect

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Family members carry the coffin of former Manchester United goalkeeper, Munich air crash survivor, Harry Gregg after the church service of his funeral at St Patrick's Parish Church in Coleraine, Northern Ireland on February 21, 2020. - Harry Gregg -- hailed as a hero for saving lives in the air crash which killed eight of Manchester United's "Busby Babes" in Munich -- died at the age of 87. (Photo by PAUL FAITH / AFP) (Photo by PAUL FAITH/AFP via Getty Images)

Family members carry the coffin of former Manchester United goalkeeper, Munich air crash survivor, Harry Gregg after the church service of his funeral at St Patrick's Parish Church in Coleraine, Northern Ireland on February 21, 2020. - Harry Gregg -- hailed as a hero for saving lives in the air crash which killed eight of Manchester United's "Busby Babes" in Munich -- died at the age of 87. (Photo by PAUL FAITH / AFP) (Photo by PAUL FAITH/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

Family members carry the coffin of former Manchester United goalkeeper, Munich air crash survivor, Harry Gregg after the church service of his funeral at St Patrick's Parish Church in Coleraine, Northern Ireland on February 21, 2020. - Harry Gregg -- hailed as a hero for saving lives in the air crash which killed eight of Manchester United's "Busby Babes" in Munich -- died at the age of 87. (Photo by PAUL FAITH / AFP) (Photo by PAUL FAITH/AFP via Getty Images)

Harry Gregg would have wondered what all the fuss was about in his home town.

As the cortege taking the Manchester United and Northern Ireland icon to his final resting place at Coleraine Cemetery left St Patrick's Parish Church, the streets of the town centre were lined with hundreds of people.

They were there for a remarkable, humble and straight-talking man.

There was sadness, appreciation, admiration and applause from those standing in the rain who had come out to pay their respects.

At the funeral service, where the Gregg family were keen to celebrate Harry's "great life, achievements and associations", the eulogies were touching and filled with humour.

Son John talked from the heart about the tough and tender sides of his dad, why Harry would wreak havoc in heaven and how he was so dearly loved by his family. John also gave thanks to the many who had paid tribute to his father following Harry's passing at the age of 87.

Prior to John finding the strength to speak, BBC NI sports presenter Stephen Watson had told the congregation about Harry's life and times in the warmest of tones.

That was followed by Gregg's dear friend Liam Beckett raising the roof with laughter, telling tales about Harry's unique points of view.

There were poems with a football theme, one written by Harry himself, read out by former Manchester United and Northern Ireland ace Pat McGibbon and another recited by Old Trafford coach Paul McGuinness.

United had shown their respect by chartering a flight from Manchester. Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir Bobby Charlton and the legendary Denis Law were there.

Three true greats from a sporting institution in attendance for another. The presence of the iconic trio meant much to the Gregg family and illustrated what Harry meant to the football club. Roy Keane had phoned John in the morning to offer his condolences. One of Gregg's old international team-mates, ex-Arsenal and Spurs boss Terry Neill, made the effort to fly over from London.

He said: "It was a privilege to be here for what was a lovely service. Harry was such a great, great man and will always be remembered."

Another former Northern Ireland boss, Sammy McIlroy, was there. So too Gerry Armstrong, Keith Gillespie and Steve Lomas. Irish FA officials were present and the Irish League was well represented with successful managers David Healy, David Jeffrey, Ronnie McFall and Oran Kearney amongst the mourners. Arlene Foster also showed her respects, as did Olympic golden girl Lady Mary Peters.

It was a turn out and a half.

Family, friends, the great and good of football, the First Minister and members of the public all wanted to say farewell to one of the bravest that ever lived.

Harry was a man that saved lives in the Munich air disaster, was an outstanding goalkeeper for United and Northern Ireland and gave joy to so many who got to know him. He also helped people, providing words of wisdom and advice, sometimes whether you wanted it or not.

Proud husband to Carolyn, a dad, granddad and great granddad, Harry loved seeing youngsters enjoy themselves and play the sport he adored.

The Harry Gregg Foundation gives kids the chance to do that and will continue to do so despite this giant's passing.

Harry's legacy will live on.

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