DERRY CITY: City's gentle warrior
This is the hardest piece I have ever written. Ryan McBride wasn't a close friend, but he was a gem both on and off the pitch.
Son, brother, uncle, warrior, leader, captain and gentleman - just some of the words which describe Derry City’s Ryan McBride.
I say Derry City’s Ryan McBride, because he loved wearing the Candy Stripes jersey. He was Derry City.
He was one of the reasons I started to support my home town club and leave the big ‘money bags’ of the English Premier League behind.
Ryan’s determination, passion and will to win shone brightly in every game, unlike the multi-millionaires in the English Premier League. You would never see him take a dive or pull out of a tackle and boy did he love a tackle. He would run through a brick wall and put any part of his body on the line if it meant he won possession for his team mates.
Prior to this season’s move to City’s temporary home at Maginn Park, the 27-year-old would have been seen after every training sessions and every game at the Brandywell, with his bag over his shoulder, walking home.
I remember the day, the then Derry boss Peter Hutton announced Ryan as his new club captain in 2015. The minute he was introduced to the gathering supporters you could see the pride and joy in the big centre-back’s face.
As he famously said, “Other players have dreams of going across the water and playing for Man United and Celtic, but my dream as a boy was to play for Derry City and that came true.” Now he was captain and it just meant that beaming smile got bigger and bigger. He was bursting with pride.
Since that appointment McBride had grown into the role with almost every game. He has become a real leader of men and under Kenny Shiels’ stewardship this season, he has guided the youthful City squad to a great winning start, four wins from four. Perfect.
Ex-team-mates, players from both the League of Ireland and Irish League, have paid their tributes on social media and while I have never been in the City dressing room, I feel as a former PRO, I have been in a privileged position when it comes to my team.
And players like Ryan McBride made my job more enjoyable, both by his performances on the pitch and his brilliant down-to-earth attitude off it. Even if he wasn’t ‘put up’ for an interview, he always would stop for a chat and say ‘what did you think?’.
During matches I’m normally sitting in a press box doing co-commentary with Kevin McDaid for Drive 105. All the away ‘journos’ know the craic; if Derry score then professionalism goes out the window.
In fact, only a few weeks ago the Shamrock Rovers’ PA announcer joking said to me and Mr. McDaid, ‘Are yous the guys from Drive?’.
We replied ‘yes’ and he said, ‘Well, listen to that music which is belting out. Hopefully yous two don’t get as loud as that tonight’.
We all laughed, but the Rovers man wasn’t laughing on 68 minutes because he knew that Messers McLaughlin and McDaid were going to go crazy.
Our skipper went up for Aaron McEneff’s corner and fired home what turned out to be the match winner and in doing so sparked wild celebrations not just amongst the travelling support but also within in the press box.
Then only two days later ‘Big Ryan’ was at it again, showing grit and determination to play through the pain barrier and head home City’s all important third goal to see off champions Dundalk at a packed Maginn Park.
Those two goals and two celebrations from McBride is how I’ll remember our captain, giving his all for my team.
My thoughts now, like everyone in the city, turn to Ryan’s father Lexie, his sisters Colleen, Siuinin and Caitlain, partner Mairead and Derry team-mates.
Hopefully Ryan’s strength can help his family and team-mates to bounce back.