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Bray skipper Kenna ready for 'emotional' Derry clash

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Bray Wanderers' captain Conor Kenna. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Bray Wanderers' captain Conor Kenna. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Bray Wanderers' captain Conor Kenna. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Somehow, life must go on for the players and staff of Derry City FC.

The devastating loss of Ryan McBride has left a void that will never be properly filled, but the business of football resumes when Bray Wanderers come to Maginn Park tonight.

There will be nothing routine about the fixture, with special tributes to Derry's inspirational captain planned for before kick-off. And the Bray squad are conscious this will not be a normal Friday night at Derry's temporary home in Buncrana.

Seagulls captain Conor Kenna travelled up to McBride's funeral last Thursday along with his colleague Aaron Greene to pay their respect on behalf of Bray; clubs from all around the country were represented.

It was a journey that gave Kenna a real sense of how McBride was loved in his locality, and he is aware of the depth of feeling that will surround this game. The Bray camp are conscious of the need to be a respectful guest.

"This is going to be emotional for everyone involved and his family," says centre-half Kenna.

"Ryan typified everything that Derry was about. It really hit home when I got up there; I saw how involved his family were in the area, and how close he lived to the Brandywell.

"Aaron is the same age as him as well (27) and that was another reason it really hit home, we just went to show our respects.

"I'd dealt with Ryan a few times over the years, at media days and stuff, and he was a gentleman. But on the pitch, he was a warrior.

"The whole day was a bit overwhelming, to see someone like that who had been scoring goals and keeping clean sheets for his team so recently. It's a very sad time for everyone. And, in a small league, you have to show support."

The great unknown is how a young Derry group will respond without a key part in their success so far this term; the Candystripes have taken the maximum return of 12 points from four games.

Matches with Limerick and Galway were called off to allow them to come to terms with McBride's passing.

"I don't know how the players are going to move on," said Kenna. "We'll mark the occasion and then we'll try and beat them, and they'll be looking to beat us. Someone was going to have to play them first."

Derry will be skippered by veteran goalkeeper Ger Doherty, who says the group are focused on delivering a performance on their return to action.

"It (captaincy) is just something that's happened for a crazy, terrible reason but it's something I'm going to embrace," the 35-year-old told the Derry Journal. "I was in two minds what to do. I'm just going to try and step up and hopefully be as good as captain as Ryan was.

"There's going to be stuff before the game, a few tributes and things, then we can really focus on the game.

"At the back of the boys' mind we'll want to do it for Ryan, but then we have to treat each game just like any other. The attitude has been brilliant. Training has had a serious edge the last couple of days. The boys are really up for it."

Irish Independent