Comment: Death of a hero reminds us of sport’s power to inspire
Emotional scenes at Ryan McBride’s funeral were desperately sad, but also very heartening
It was rather overshadowed by the funeral of Martin McGuinness, which took place a few hours later at the same church, but the hundreds of mourners who lined the streets of Derry yesterday morning, beneath leaden skies, to pay their final respects to Ryan McBride were testament to the impact that the 27-year-old had on his local community.
McBride’s sudden death – the Derry City captain was found in his home last Sunday, 24 hours after leading his team to victory over Drogheda United – was the latest blow for a club who have suffered more than their share of misfortune in the past 12 months or so.
Last February, Derry’s record goalscorer, Mark Farren, died of a brain tumour aged just 33, while the Buncrana pier tragedy claimed the lives of family members of winger Josh Daniels.
But amid the outpouring of grief yesterday was a reminder of the unique power of sport to bring people and communities together;
Derry manager Kenny Shiels read a moving poem that prompted spontaneous applause from the congregation and well-wishers who had spilt out into the churchyard and the road beyond.
It is all too easy to be cynical about professional sport today; Premier League footballers and their £200,000-a-week pay packets, corruption in the biggest sporting federations in the world, investigations and Jiffy bags, bullying and discrimination, the thirst for ‘medals at any cost’. All inevitably lead to a certain ennui on the part of a fan.
When I tell people I report on professional cycling, invariably the first question they will ask is: “So come on, seriously, are they all at it (taking drugs)?”
It has got to the point where it is easy to lose sight of the joy of sport, of what made us fans in the first place. For some that joy will never return.
After the US Postal/Lance Armstrong scandal many cycling fans swore they would never be sucked in again; convinced the whole thing was a charade.
But to lose faith entirely would be the biggest sadness of all.
To ignore the efforts of all those who don’t cheat would not only be sad; it would be an insult to the countless hours of preparation they have put in.
Sport’s power to inspire remains unparalleled. If you doubt that, you need only to witness yesterday’s reaction to the death of a Derry City stalwart.
The priest who delivered the eulogy, Father Aidan Mullan, spoke – as others have in recent days – of McBride’s huge physical courage, of a man who was proud to lead his home-town club, of his humble demeanour off the pitch, where he continued to work behind the local bar, of a role model to young children.
It was heartening, as well as desperately sad. (© Daily Telegraph, London)