On Sunday the 19th March 2017, 27-year-old Derry City defender and captain Ryan McBride died suddenly in his home just a few hundred metres from Derry’s Brandywell Stadium, the cause for this tragedy is still unknown.
Born in Derry, he naturally began his career playing in their amateur leagues, gradually elevating himself through the Derry and District League to play for Institute FC, a semi-professional Northern-Irish second tier team. After a trial at the now dissolved former Scottish Premier League team Gretna, McBride signed his first professional contract at boyhood club Derry in 2011.
His debut came at the age of 21 against Drogheda United, the same opponents he faced in his last match for the club on Saturday where he captained his side to a 4-0 win.
In 2011, he was immediately called up to the League of Ireland XI (currently known as the Airtricity League XI for sponsorship reasons) who are effectively the reserves for the Republic of Ireland international team, and featured in the pre-season tournament Dublin Super Cup against Inter Milan, Manchester City and Celtic.
McBride did not ease his way through to professional football as he lacked in the finesse and technical sides of the game, but his passion was durable and work ethic stringent which highlighted him as a leading character within any dressing room. His first manager at Derry City, Stephen Kenny, remembered McBride as “a ferociously brave player, he was the bravest player I ever saw on a pitch”.
Former Derry City manager Roddy Collins, who rewarded Ryan’s resolute performances with the player’s first contract renewal in 2013, said “he was genuine, unassuming, hard as nails, old-fashioned. Just a good man” and stated “everybody loved him”.
Not only did he embody Ireland’s stereotypical tough guy status, from the back line he managed to score several vital goals during his 6-year tenure at the club. One in both the 2014 and 2015 FAI Cup quarter final ties against the recurrent Drogheda and Cork City, plus his first and only brace against Sligo Rovers in the league.
His evident importance to the club he loved was again rewarded in 2015 when he was named as their new captain for the upcoming season, at just 25 years of age. That same year, he made short-lived viral fame on the internet thanks to his “two Cork’s, one stone” clip showing the vigorous Irishman taking out two Cork City players with one tackle, dubbing him the “toughest man in football”.
Not just a sad day for Derry City but for Irish football, a player who did the talking on the pitch and should have had many more years captaining the club he wore on his sleeve. Derry City tweeted a picture of McBride with the caption “Captain. Leader. Legend and absolute gentleman. #RIPRyanMcBride”.
177 appearances, 57 as captain and 13 goals; he was the face of an era for Derry City and will be ever-present in the minds of any associated to the club.