Ryan McBride: Michael O'Neill leads tributes to Derry City captain

Ryan McBride's coffin
Ryan McBride's coffin, draped with his number five shirt, is carried to his home in the Brandywell area

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill has led the tributes to Derry City captain Ryan McBride, who has died at the age of 27.

Defender McBride was found dead at home on Sunday, a day after he led his side in a 4-0 League of Ireland win over Drogheda United.

The cause of death is not yet known but a post mortem is being carried out.

"He epitomised everything about our club and our city," said Derry City chief executive Sean Barrett.

McBride's funeral will take place on Thursday at 10:00 GMT at St Columba's Church in Derry, after which the player will be buried in the city cemetery.

The league game between Derry City and Limerick, due to take place on 21 March, will be rescheduled.

McBride's death is the latest tragedy to befall the club following the death of striker Mark Farren and the Buncrana pier tragedy, which claimed the lives of members of winger Josh Daniels a year ago.

'He led boys to become men'

Northern Ireland manager O'Neill was manager of League of Ireland Premier Division side Shamrock Rovers when McBride joined Derry six years ago.

"When I first saw him play, I remember thinking, 'what a fantastic young defender'. He was strong, physical and hugely committed.

"His leadership qualities were evident even at such a young age and it was no surprise to me that he became such an inspirational player for his hometown club."

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Ryan McBride: 'A perfect example to any young player'

Derry City manager Kenny Shiels said the death was "hard for everybody to take" and that he was "the perfect example to any young player coming through".

And chief executive Barrett added: "Of the words that have been thrown around probably my favourite one is 'warrior'.

"He led boys to become men and he was a man. He was everything that is associated with Derry City Football Club and, indeed, the whole city."

The Irish Football Association tweeted: "Thoughts tonight with the family of Ryan McBride and everyone involved with Derry City FC."

Derry City released an official statement on Monday afternoon saying the team will "miss his inspiration and his leadership".

The statement went on to say: "In the hearts and minds of all of us, and long into the future, Ryan McBride will be remembered as one of the greats of Derry City Football Club."

Phil O'Doherty, Derry City Football Club chairman, said the team was "devastated" at the loss of a "leader on and off the field".

"He was incredibly respected. He was an ideal captain," he told the BBC. "He was from the Brandywell area and he walked across the road to his home after every game."

The CEO of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI), John Delaney, said Irish football was in mourning.

"Ryan's passing has left a deep shock throughout football," he said. "We will remember Ryan with a tribute at Friday night's World Cup qualifier against Wales."

Profile: Ryan McBride

Ryan McBride
Ryan McBride led Derry City to a 4-0 victory over Drogheda United on Saturday

Since his debut in 2011, McBride had not only become a mainstay of the club's defence, but a fans' favourite.

He made more than 170 appearances, with more than 50 as captain after he took over the role permanently two years ago.

A self-professed quiet man off the pitch, McBride said it was a "different story" on it. "I switch on and then I'm in game mode," he said.

'A lot of tragedy'

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Derry City players leave Ryan McBride news conference

Republic of Ireland footballer James McClean, a former team mate of McBride at Derry, said he was "a warrior that literally would throw his body on the line when he pulled on that Derry City jersey, a club that meant so much to him".

He said that McBride was a "big gentleman off the field", adding: "Sleep tight big man. May God bless you and your family."

Ireland manager Martin O'Neill has said West Brom's McClean will be permitted to leave the camp before Friday's game with Wales should he wish.

Former Derry City striker Liam Coyle said: "My brother phoned me to tell me and I was in total disbelief.

"I played football with Ryan's father and Ryan was always a rising star. Derry City has lost the best centre half in Ireland."

DUP leader Arlene Foster tweeted: "My deepest condolences to the family and all Derry City FC as they mourn the loss of the talented Ryan McBride. Such devastating news."

Archbishop Eamon Martin said: "Sad news from Derry. Praying for the family and for his many friends and supporters who will miss him. Lord have mercy. RIP."

The President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, tweeted: "Along with all those who support Irish football, I express my sadness and condolences to the family of Derry City Football Club captain Ryan McBride."

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The number 5 jersey hangs in the Brandywell