Ryan McBride: Derry City captain makes final journey home
HUNDREDS of mourners lined the streets as Derry City captain Ryan McBride was carried home by his teammates this evening.
Friends and football fans, many wearing the red and white of the Candystripes, applauded as the 27-year-old, who died suddenly on Sunday, was brought back to his native Brandywell.
His body was returned to his family following a post-mortem.
Tributes, including from President Michael D Higgins and DUP leader Arlene Foster, flowed in after the shock news that McBride had been found dead at his home.
At Free Derry Corner, the club flag was flown at half-mast while Derry City and Strabane District Council lit its offices in red as a mark of respect and to commemorate the first anniversary of the Buncrana Pier tragedy.
In Sligo, players with Sligo Rovers also gathered in silence at The Showgrounds while holding the Derry captain's number five jersey.
Family friends said McBride went for a nap on Sunday after training. His partner Mairead became concerned when she was unable to reach him by phone and asked his sister to waken him. He was then found dead.
A lifelong Derry City fan who lived just yards from the Brandywell stadium, McBride had many opportunities to transfer to professional football in England but had said he always wanted to play for his home club.
Many of his team-mates wept as they gathered at the club's offices yesterday morning. In a statement, Derry City said everyone would miss his leadership.
"In the hearts and minds of all of us and long into the future, Ryan McBride will be remembered as one of the greats of Derry City Football Club," it read.
President Michael D Higgins was among the first to send condolences to the player's father Lexie, sisters Colleen, Siuínín and Caitlain, and his partner Mairead.
DUP leader and former first minister Arlene Foster described his death as "devastating".
Foyle MP, the SDLP's Mark Durkan, said McBride was "so special".
"There is deep shock and sadness at the loss of a young man who brought so much happiness to others through his skills and dedication," he said.
Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney described McBride as an "excellent player, a great leader on and off the field and an inspiration to many".
There were also messages of sympathy from the footballing world including former Republic of Ireland star Paul McGrath and ex-English internationals Stan Collymore and Robbie Fowler.
Irish international James McClean, a former team mate at Derry City, said the game had lost "a warrior that literally would throw his body on the line when he pulled on that Derry City jersey".
Irish FA chief executive Patrick Nelson said everyone in football was shocked by the death, while FAI chief John Delaney said McBride was a "true great of the game".
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill, who saw the player make his Derry City debut, said his "leadership qualities were evident even at such a young age" while the Republic's coach Martin O'Neill said the news "puts football and sport into some sort of perspective".
Archbishop Eamon Martin, head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, said he was praying for McBride's family "and for his many friends and supporters who will miss him. Lord have mercy. RIP."
Requiem Mass will be celebrated at St Columb's Church, Long Tower, at 10am on Thursday, followed by burial at Derry city cemetery.