Northern Ireland news

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill urges football fans ‘to take care of each other'

Flowers are left close to the scene where Darren Rodgers, from Ballymena, died after a fall in Nice in France. Picture by Michael McHugh, Press Association
Jennifer Maloney and Kenny Archer

NORTHERN Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has urged fans to "watch out for each other" folowing the death of Co Antrim supporter Darren Rodgers.

Mr Rodgers (24) from Ballymena, toppled 26ft (8m) over a barrier from a promenade in the south coast city of Nice.

The accident happened at about 2am on Monday and Mr Rodgers was on his own at the time.

Floral tributes have been left at the scene where Mr Rodgers died.

Mr O'Neill urges supporters to take care of each other during the tournament.

He also said that the football team was "very down" after the sudden death.

He said: "The tragedy and nature of his death reaally does put things in perspective.

"Ultimately to find out that someone so young had lost their life affects everyone really.

"The players are very down about it and they pass on their deepest sympathies to both the family and the friends who were out with Darren.

"It's very, very sad. My message to the supporters is make sure you look after each other while you are out here.

"Please enjoy yourselves and have a great time but please be careful. Take care of each other. 

"Having spoken to the players we certainly want to do something to mark the tragedy and pay our respects.

"All through the campaign and even more so here, the fans have been a huge part of everything that has gone well for Northern Ireland."

Mr O'Neill also said that he hopes that Thursday's match against Ukraine would be a chance for supporters and the team to pay a "fitting tribute" to Mr Rogers.

He added: "I can only imagine what his family are going through – going out here with your friends, to be part of the tournament and then for the parents to find out the nature of the tragedy.

"I'm sure is terrible. In truth I can't imagine what that feeling will be like. I can only pass on my condolences and sympathies to his family."

Meanwhile, Patrick Nelson, Irish Football Association chief executive said the organisation is considering how best to pay tribute to Mr Rodgers.

He said: "I'll ask Uefa whether it's appropriate to have a minute's silence before the [Ukraine] game and/ or to wear black armbands.

"I'm also aware that there's a supporters's move already to have a minute's applause in the 24th minute and we're fully supportive of that."

Mr Nelson added that "everybody in the IFA is devastated by this".

He said: "The young lads came out to watch some games of football, part of a huge movement from Northern Ireland, a very joyous movement, and this i a tragedy for his family and his friends.

"The IFA President [Jim Shaw] has been with me all day, focussed on this, and he has spoken to Darren's dad and his uncle and he has expressed the sympathy of everybody at the IFA.

"We're going to take our cue from Darren's family as to what else we do. An IFA staff member is ready to go down to Nice if the family want that.

"We don't know yet whether the family are going to come to Nice, but if they do, and if they want somebody there, then we'll have somebody there to help look after them.

"It is a terrible tragedy and our message is that we'd like everybody to remember Darren, everyone to respect and celebrate his memory while we're out in France.

"We have a game coming up in three day's time and we're very supportive of the 24th minute's applause.

"We will talk to Uefa about a more formal tribute and we'll see how that goes.

"Everyone is just devastated. From an association perspective we just want to respect Darren's memory and celebrate the life of Darren and do what his family thinks is appropriate."

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