FOOTBALL fans are in for a real treat when a host of ex-Celtic stars and former domestic and international favourites line out on May 5th next for the Ryan McBride Soccer Sixes in honour of the much loved former Derry City captain and the Foundation set up in his name.
Aptly sponsored by O’Neills – ‘The Choice of Champions’ – the Soccer Sixes will take place in the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium followed by the annual Gala Ball the same evening in the fantastic setting of the City Hotel with some well-known faces to be announced in the coming weeks.
Previous years have seen Phil Coulter, James McClean, John Giles, Kevin Kilbane and Derry Girls star Jamie-Lee O’Donnell appear at what is becoming one of the
most prestigious gatherings in the city’s calendar.
This year will see scouse impressionist and online star Darren Farley provide the after-dinner entertainment.
The sudden and untimely death of Ryan McBride, who passed away in his sleep aged just 27 at the family home on March 19th 2017 – a day after captaining his beloved Candy Stripes for what was to be the last time - sent shockwaves throughout the city and country.
The Foundation set up by Ryan’s father, sisters and partner has made a real impact in the past two years with its mantra to create a legacy for Ryan and to “support, assist and inspire young people through sport.”
The Foundation has mentored over a thousand children at its popular Football for a Fiver Camps and Primary Schools Program, provided Key Stage 2 children with private tuition, assisted young people to obtain coaching qualifications and run a Second Chance Academy for 16-20 year-olds.
The Foundation has also teamed up with GAA star Oisin McConville to tackle gambling addiction in the local community.
The Foundation has secured four teams at present including a Glasgow Celtic team featuring a number of fan favourites who will be among the stellar list of former football stars converging on Derry’s hallowed turf for what is expected to be a sell-out event.
Sportswear giant O’Neills, who have a long-standing partnership with the Ryan McBride Foundation are kindly lead sponsors for the events. Kieran Kennedy, Managing Director of O’Neills which opened its Derry superstore in Waterloo Place last year, said the locally based international sports company was proud to be associated with the Ryan McBride Soccer Sixes.
Paying tribute to the work done to date by the Ryan McBride Foundation, Mr Kennedy said: “Once again a host of former football stars will be out in force to honour the Derry City captain who was held in such high esteem not just throughout the city but by the wider Irish footballing community, and to support the Foundation set up in Ryan’s memory.”
He added: “O’Neills are literally part of the fabric of the sporting community not just in the North West but across the world and it is a privilege to support the Ryan McBride Soccer Sixes and Gala Ball 2019 which will without doubt follow the success of last year’s poignant event.”
Ryan’s sister Caitlin McBride explained: “It will be an action-packed family fun day with face-painters, magicians and balloon artists on a poignant date given that it will be the 5/5/2019 and Ryan so proudly wore the number five shirt for Derry City. That evening there will be a dinner in the City Hotel and Q&A with a selection of players, a memorabilia auction, music until late and of course Darren Farley who we are all looking forward to seeing.
“We are delighted with the players that have committed to play in this year’s event and it is great to see so many players that Ryan would have played with and against as well as players that would never have met Ryan – it shows the high esteem in which he was held and that is heart-warming for us as a family. Having O’Neills as our lead sponsor also adds prestige to the event and Kieran and his team have been brilliant supporters of the Foundation from the outset, stocking our merchandise in their Waterloo Place store. It is fantastic to work with a company that is both a local success story and a leading brand in Irish sport.”
On the all-important football front, defending champions Derry City will again have a squad with over 3,000 club appearances including 1995 FAI Cup winning goalkeeper Dermott O’Neill, Eddie McCallion, all-time leading appearances’ holder Peter Hutton, Barry Molloy, Ruaidhri Higgins, Gareth McGlynn, Kevin McHugh and Gary Beckett – a squad of players who have a number of League and Cup medals as well as being part of famous European nights against PSG, Gothenburg and Gretna.
The PFAI League of Ireland Select will travel North full of confidence, given that they have the pick of the League and include players who have won multiple League and Cup titles.
Many of the squad have very recently retired such as former Dundalk skipper Stephen O’Donnell, ex-Derry City favourite Killian Brennan, Gary McCabe, Daire Doyle and former Cameroon World Cup star Joseph Ndo.
The Glasgow Celtic team will be led by the “Derry Pele” Paddy McCourt and will feature a number of fan favourites such as Jackie McNamara, Simon Donnelly and Mark Burchill. A number of further stars from Celtic and the Republic of Ireland will be announced in the coming weeks.
Caitlin McBride added: “We may have a few late additions to the team line-up as interest in the event has gathered pace.”
The Soccer Sixes will kick off in the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium at 1pm on May 5th, featuring Glasgow Celtic, Republic of Ireland, Derry City and PFA Ireland Select. A limited number of early-bird tickets for the Soccer Sixes are priced at £25 adult, £10 child, £60 family of four. Tickets for the Gala Ball at the City Hotel are priced at £60/table £600.
Contact the Ryan McBride Foundation on Facebook or Twitter for further details.