It's hurting no one and honouring a Brandywell and Derry City legend!
Whilst the McBride family have maintained the most dignified of silences over the past few months, that silence seems to have bred contempt.
I have no problem with other people’s opinions but when it is so publicly expressed and littered with lies and mistruths it cannot go unchallenged.
Eddie Mahon’s article in Friday’s Derry Journal was insensitive, condescending and in many areas completely untrue. As a “journalist” he has not checked any of his statements nor did he contact anyone from the Foundation or family for comment. In his article;
(i) Eddie states every “football man” is against this - what constitutes a “football man” and how many did Eddie speak to? Philip O’Doherty, Kenny Shiels, Sean Hargan, Peter Hutton, James McClean, Stephen McLaughlin, Danny Lafferty, Barry McNamee and a host of others supported this proposal. Are these people no longer “football men?”
(ii) Eddie states that the person putting this forward was emotionally motivated with no understanding of the history and customs of the game. How very condescending of Eddie. This proposal was put forward by Ryan’s family and Foundation - there is no shortage of understanding of the game within both and Eddie has never taken the time or courtesy to speak to anyone in Ryan’s family or Foundation to try and gain a more balanced view or understanding.
(iii) Eddie’s next gaffe is that “the game has NEVER honoured the memories of its great players or managers, by naming its stadiums after them.” This is a lie - has Eddie ever heard of these guys?; Gheorghe Hagi; Diego Maradona; Ali Daei; Georgi Asparuhov; Ferenc Puskas; Giuseppe Meazza; Johan Cruyff; Didier Drogba; Dwight Yorke; Gus Hiidink; Danny Blanchflower; Vicente Calderon; Eamon Deacy.
The above all had stadia named after them but the best one for me is Real Madrid. I stopped reading Eddie’s grumblings a long time ago but as you can tell from his plethora of anti-Barcelona articles he is a big fan of Real
Madrid. The club’s 81,000 seater stadium is named The Santiago Bernabeu - after their ex-player and manager! (maybe it is Eddie who needs a lesson in the history of the game).
(iv) Eddie then likens Ryan’s “case” to Duncan Edwards who perished in the Munich Air Disaster highlighting that Old Trafford was not re-named. The two tragedies are incomparable - Edwards was from the Midlands not Manchester, he was not club captain and he perished with seven of his fellow players. Ryan was born, lived and died 100 yards from the ground, he captained the side two days before his death and he is the only Derry City player to die whilst under contract with the club. Certainly, if Ryan had died along with 5 of his team mates, nobody would be proposing this name change to catapult him above his seven team mates.
(v) Eddie then brings Mark Farren’s name in to matters to maybe overshadow his article’s factual inaccuracies. I knew Mark since we were 13 years-old - my father used to drive him up and down to Greencastle when we both played for Moorfield. Mark was a brilliant fella, fantastic footballer and everyone was delighted when the new stand was named after him - it is totally deserved and is a fitting tribute to Mark and his family. The two circumstances are however completely different. Part of the reason that the proposal went forward was because Ryan lived facing the ground, he was a Brandywell man first and foremost. Had Ryan not been from the Brandywell this proposal would not have been put forward. A public consultation was held in the Gasyard and it was standing room only and the residents were clear that they supported the proposal. The Foundation reached out to Mark’s parents prior to the proposal going forward and they were totally comfortable with the honour being bestowed upon Ryan and were delighted that both men would have their names immortalised in the ground. No one is losing anything here, “Brandywell” is still in the name and people can call it what they like.
(vi) Eddie complains that an internet poll excluded those who were not “IT Savvy.” Again, this is a complete misrepresentation and it is abundantly clear that Eddie paid little attention to the actual consultation. DCSDC put flyers in every door in the Council area, they had it on the radio, printed in local newspapers and set up stands in shopping centres. You could vote in the online poll, you could email your vote, you could write into DCSDC with your vote or you could fill in the survey at the desks in the shopping centres. DCSDC opened the poll for a massive eight weeks. What more would Eddie suggest DCSDC to do? If a person felt so strongly on the issue they would have no problem getting a vote registered.
(vii) Notwithstanding the alleged inaccessibility of the vote, Eddie then goes onto complain about the geographical position of those voters and the team that they support, complaining of votes from Cork to Copenhagen. Eddie reckons the vote should have been open to Derry City and its fans only. This creates a few head scratchers though: What if the guy in Copenhagen is a Derry City fan away working for a few months?; What constitutes a “Derry City fan?” - season ticket? Buy a shirt every year? Five games per season? Turn up for cup finals?; Should a Derry city fan living in Muff get a vote even though they do not pay rates to upkeep the stadium?; Should a resident living 60 years in the Brandywell not get a vote because she doesn’t like football (but puts up with upset of construction, the traffic every fortnight and the odd anti-social dust-up)?; Should Brandywell Celtic or Brandywell Harps get a vote give they also call the Brandywell Stadium home or what of Institute and their fans given that they are now tenants just as Derry City are?
The questions above highlight how ludicrous Eddie’s suggestion is and that is without even addressing the fact that Derry City do not own the ground. To suggest that people who attend the ground for two hours every fortnight should have a vote but a resident living in the Brandywell 50 years should not is quite frankly ridiculous.
(viii) Eddie then states “our average gate now would be around 2,000 - so where the 7,000 votes came from is anyone’s guess!” Well no Eddie, it’s not anyone’s guess because if you had bothered to get a copy of the Consultation document from the Council you would have seen that they had analysed the votes and provided a breakdown of where the votes came from. Eddie would then have seen that 85% of the electronic votes came from the Council area (63.6% from BT48, 16% from BT47, 4.6% from BT82). For the paper submissions 100% came from the Council area (85% from BT48). The information is all there Eddie if you had sought it out before writing your article in a newspaper and asking people to pay to read it.
(ix) In Eddie’s next paragraph he calls the vote “bogus” despite the above paragraphs highlighting that he knew little about it. Eddie then refers to fans of Shamrock Rovers, Dundalk etc voting and again this highlights Eddie’s lack of investigation or basic research. DCSDC set the parameters of the vote and did not consult anyone on this, presumably they considered the various permutations of residency, support, stadium users etc. as set out above. However, Eddie’s reference to outsiders is again an entirely misleading representation as ultimately votes from outside the Council area made no difference to the outcome. The vote was 71-29% in favour with 15% of electronic votes coming from outside the Council area - had all of those 900 votes been discounted from the yes vote (that’s even assuming they voted yes) then the threshold of 66% would still have been passed. Ultimately the rate payers decided the outcome of the name of an asset they fund. It is also worth noting 300 paper votes were disregarded
and all but one of those had voted in favour.
(x) Eddie then states that the matter should be decided by Ryan’s “own people.” I agree and whilst I didn’t like the process, I am glad that it has been decided in such emphatic style. Eddie Mahon is not Ryan’s “own people.” Ryan was a Brandywell man first and foremost and the community in the Brandywell got right behind this proposal and were vocal in their support.
(xi) Eddie reckons that Ryan’s honour should be “a matter of long and inclusive discussion. How many of my readers have actually been consulted in the matter?”
Eddie, they are not “your readers” and the fact that you felt the need to churn these sensationalist lies out would suggest that you may be struggling on the numbers front.
Eddie you say “inclusive” but not Derry people living in Cork or Copenhagen or non-Derry City fans living in the Brandywell or “ex-pats” living in Killea or Muff - that kind of “inclusive”?
There was a public consultation held by the Ryan McBride Foundation in the Gasyard several months ago which was packed with people. It was widely advertised and attended by residents, Derry City fans, elected representatives and media. Eddie did not attend.
DCSDC were going to vote in this matter but many fans wanted a say so a working group was appointed to decide on a process - this is where the formal Consultation process came from. DCSDC spent thousands on the consultation and it lasted 12 weeks with 7,500 engaging and giving their view. How much longer or “inclusive” does Eddie want?
Finally, all of “your readers” had access to the consultation had they wished to take part - that is abundantly clear from the information above. Ultimately 1871 voted against out of a possible 6549 - the vote was not even close.
(xxii) Eddie then has the gall to tell “his readers” that he doesn’t think Ryan would want to be subject of a divisive discussion. In stating this Eddie is advising Ryan’s family that they are wrong, that they are acting against Ryan’s wishes - this coming from a man who didn’t know Ryan and didn’t have the decency to meet with his family before printing his article. Fact is Ryan was quiet, humble and he did a lot for other people in a quiet and private way. His family know what he put himself through for Derry City - it cost him money to play at the start as he took the night off work, he trained double sessions for years to be good enough, played through injury, illness and pain and when other players left he stayed and turned down offers which would have tripled his wages. Ryan deserves this and whilst I would be wary of any person who asked for an honour to be conveyed on them, it is not about what he wanted its about what is right.
(xii) Eddie then talks about the matter being “politicised” however each political party has considered the consultation documents, statistics and have ratified the content. It now has unanimous support so whilst Eddie
tries to mislead “his readers” that this is a political battle that they must fight, the truth is that each party have committed to supporting the motion when it next comes before Council because the process was robust and the result a landslide.
Derry has many great ex-players and some of those hail from the Brandywell but those players live long lives, have children and grandchildren and that is their legacy. Ryan doesn’t have that, he died un-married with no children at the age of 27 - the stadium is his legacy. The name Ryan McBride should be a standard bearer for the club and it should be the inspiration for any young player. If Ryan’s memory has been besmirched it lays soundly at Eddie Mahon’s door.
Ryan’s father, sisters and girlfriend had five months of this process when a lot of unfair things were said - finally when its over and the proposal is vindicated by a massive landslide victory people cannot accept the result and move on they have to bring their happiness crashing down. They shouldn’t have to open a newspaper and read that rubbish.
It has to be remembered that all we are doing here is adding “Ryan McBride” to the original name, it is hurting no one and honouring a true Brandywell and Derry City legend. There are no losers.