Ryan McBride’s brother-in-law has said the late Derry City captain’s family are overjoyed the campaign to have the Brandywell re-named in his honour looks all but certain to realise its goals.
Gareth McCay was speaking after the results of a consultation returned overwhelming support for the move to rename the famous old ground, ‘The Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium.’
Mr. McCay, a founder member of the Ryan McBride Foundation, was in the public gallery in the Guildhall yesterday when the results of the poll were revealed at a meeting of Derry City & Strabane District Council’s Health and Communities Committee.
“We’re over the moon. It’s been a lot of hard work and emotional along the way,” he said.
“The family felt they couldn’t come today because it would just have been too emotional.
“That would have been the case if it had gone for or against,” he remarked.
Mr. McCay, who is married to the late Mr. McBride’s sister Colleen, was speaking after the Council’s Lead Democratic Services and Improvement Officer,
Ellen Cavanagh, revealed the consultation, which was conducted between April and July, had returned a landslide in favour of honouring Ryan.
Ms. Cavanagh revealed that, when invalid votes were excluded, 4,678 (71 per cent) of 6,549 respondents in total favoured naming the ground, ‘The Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium.’
This smashed the 500 respondent quota and the two thirds majority threshold that were required to validate the process.
“I suppose everything’s still raw with Ryan. It’s still just over a year,” said Mr. McCay.
“Initially, when we brought it forward we didn’t think we would have had to go through the process.
“If we had, perhaps we wouldn’t have gone ahead with it. But today vindicates everything we’ve done. Sometimes we felt it might have been easier to walk away. It’s been a long, long process.”
Mr. McCay said Ryan’s sisters Colleen, Siuinin and Caitlain, and his former partner Mairead, are delighted the proposal won such extraordinary support.
And Ryan’s father Lexie, still grieving the sudden loss of his only son at the age of just 27 last year, is immensely proud.
“What you’ll find now is Lexie, Ryan’s Da, will be out brushing the stands every morning. I’m not even joking. It wouldn’t surprise me,” he said.
“He’ll be over the moon, honestly. It’s great for the community in the Brandywell because they’ll take ownership of the stadium even more now.
“It’s named after one of their own and they feel like they’ve had their say and it’s their stadium now,” he added.
A breakdown of the consultation shows there were 6,775 responses in total, with 6,019 submitted electronically via a voting page on the Council website.
A further 756 were submitted in written form.
Of the 756 written responses, all but one favoured naming the ground after Ryan. Of the 6,019 electronic votes - some of which were submitted from as far afield as Spain, Croatia, the United States and Australia - 4,149 (68.9%) were in favour of the move.
With the exclusion of invalid votes 4,678 (71%) of 6,549 valid respondents favoured the name change.
Sinn Féin Councillor, Kevin Campbell, said: “This will be a fitting tribute to Ryan McBride and his family. He grew up in the shadow of the stadium and was an ambassador for the area.”
SDLP Councillor Martin Reilly, said “Everyone agrees he was an important character in this city, not just in football but in general.”
Independent Councillor, Gary Donnelly, said the support was clearly “overwhelming”, adding that, of those who did vote against: “Not a single one thought tribute should not be paid to Ryan.”
The proposal to proceed with the name change was unanimously supported by the committee and will now come before Full Council for ratification in two weeks.
“Ryan’s name will always be remembered by the generation that saw him play and knew him,” said Mr. McCay.
“But what we wanted was in 20 or 30 years time when people are bringing their grandchildren and their children, these new supporters will be asking why is it called the Ryan McBride Stadium.”