Myself and my dad have been going to the Brandywell stadium to watch Derry City play (sometimes just try to play to be honest) football since 2001. According to the old scoreboard – not just old but ‘still used cardboard scorecards that needed to manually changed’ old – in the Brandywell, the first game we went to finished Derry 4-2 Shelbourne.
What the final score actually was, and who the Candystripes were even playing, however remains a mystery to us because, according to the Brandywell scoreboard, the next 20 games we went to also all saw Derry beat Shels (the top team in the country at the time) 4-2…
As it turned out, the man who’d been tasked with changing the scoreboard had given up on that job years before we’d started going to games.
In the ensuing 20 years of football we’ve watched Derry City play we’ve seen: a fancy new digital scoreboard be installed (for a few years anyways), a team win multiple FAI Cups and League Cups, a team nearly win the league on a few occasions, a team relegated for ‘financial irregularities’ (the money was just resting in their account) and a number of future Ireland internationals play before their big moves to England.
The reason I wrote ’20 years’ and not ’21 years’ wasn’t just poor maths on my part (I’m bad at maths but not that bad, c’mon), it was because there was a year we didn’t go and watch our local team.
That year was 2017. And lack of attendance was because of the events of 19th March 2017.
On that day, club captain and local hero Ryan McBride sadly passed away – less than 24 hours after leading the Candystripes to a 4-0 win over Drogheda United.
Ryan’s death shellshocked the city.
At just 27 years of age, the towering centre back was in the prime of footballing career, living out his boyhood dream of playing for Derry City. At the start of the 2017 season he was proving beyond any shadow of doubt that he was the premier defender in the Irish league too, even scoring two goals in the first four games.
His untimely passing meant that the club had lost their leader and the league had lost one of its best players, and meant that a family had lost a brother, a son, an uncle and a partner.
In the ensuing months it just didn’t feel right to go watch Derry City play knowing that Ryan wouldn’t be leading the team out. As such myself and my dad opted to steer clear of the Derry games as, after a brilliant start with Ryan in the team, the Candystripes fell apart without him – winning just 10 more games all year after winning their first four on the bounce.
It’s taken a long time for club to rebound from the tragic loss of Ryan McBride five years ago, and it took a while for myself and my dad to go back to the now ‘Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium’ as the tragedy of his death still looms in the city. However, through the foundation set up in his name by his family and friends has meant that Ryan’s legacy has been a positive one for the community he grew up in.
Set up just a few weeks after Ryan’s passing by his family, the Ryan McBride Foundation has sought to do three key things:
To do these three things and help young people in the north west of Ireland realise their full potential, the foundation identifies key areas where it believes it can assist these young people.
Be it through providing local clubs with football kits, training gear and equipment, working in partnership with Derry City to provide coaching and mentoring young players on an entirely cross-community basis, or their Ryan McBride Schools Cup tournament for primary school children in the city, the Foundation has sought to give children access to sport and impact upon their social and life-skills.
The impact of support provided to young people in a part of the world where one-in-four children live in poverty has been immeasurable, and is a credit to Ryan’s family and friends who have worked to ensure that the former Derry City captain’s legacy is a positive one in the community.
To donate and help the Ryan McBride Foundation continue to have a positive impact, click here.
You can follow the Ryan McBride Foundation on Facebook here.