Northern Ireland

Hundreds expected to attend funeral of former Manchester United and NI goalkeeper Harry Gregg

The funeral of Harry Gregg takes place in Coleraine today
The funeral of Harry Gregg takes place in Coleraine today

PARTS of Coleraine town centre will be closed today as hundreds of people are expected to attend the funeral of former Manchester United and Northern Ireland goalkeeper Harry Gregg.

Police have warned of significant disruption in the town as mourners gather at St Patrick's Parish Church to say their final farewells to Gregg, who died on Sunday aged 87.

Former Manchester United managers Sir Bobby Charlton and Sir Alex Ferguson are expected at the service, alongside figures from the Irish Football Association and clubs Gregg played for as a young man, including Coleraine, Linfield and Doncaster.

Children from the Harry Gregg Foundation, set up by the footballer to inspire young people to follow in his footsteps, will form a guard a honour.

Hailed as a hero after the Munich air disaster in February 1958, in which 23 people were killed, Gregg survived the crash and twice returned to the burning fuselage to drag team-mates and strangers to safety.

In nine years at Manchester United, he played 247 times, including in a 3-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday just 13 days after the Munich tragedy.

Originally from Magherafelt, he made 25 appearances for Northern Ireland between 1954 and 1963.

Police last night said a "significant barrier plan" will be in place in Coleraine town centre as the funeral takes place, affecting Church Street, the Diamond and Queen Street.

"The town centre will be closed to vehicles from approximately 11am to 2pm," a statement said.

"In order to minimise disruption, businesses are asked to arrange alternative times or dates for deliveries."

Speaking ahead of the funeral, a senior Catholic bishop told how Gregg provided the inspiration for his confirmation service homilies.

Anthony Farquhar, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Down and Connor, described how he "treasured his friendship and his company" after getting to know Gregg at the Milk Cup.

He also revealed how he borrowed a line from Gregg's acceptance speech when he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Ulster University.

"Harry told the students that when he was at school, a teacher had said to him: 'Gregg, you're stupid and you are a dreamer'," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"He then added to an audience who hung on his every word: 'I've proved I am not stupid and never give up on your dreams'.

"I thought it summed up perfectly what I wanted to say to young people starting out on life's journey."

Following the funeral service at noon, Gregg's cortege will pass The Showgrounds football stadium in Coleraine, where he played as a young man, before he is laid to rest at Coleraine Cemetery.