Watch: Tearful Derry City boss Kenny Shiels reads poignant poem at funeral of Ryan McBride
HEARTBROKEN mourners at the funeral of Derry City captain Ryan McBride have been told of his "powerful example" and how he was "brave and knew no fear".
The funeral took place at the family church, St Columba's Long Tower, at 10am where hundreds of people packed the chapel which overlooks the Candystripes' Brandywell stadium.
President of Ireland Michael D Higgins was among hundreds who attended the funeral.
The McBride family home is beside the ground where Ryan, whose nickname was 'Captain Fantastic', was a hero to supporters.
Flowers in the hearse said "Captain" and depicted his number 5 jersey.
Ryan's team-mates formed a guard of honour for their skipper as he was carried into the church on Thursday morning for Requiem Mass.
In an emotional poem Derry City manager Kenny Shiels told those gathered: "Ryan we love you with all of our heart.
"In your absence we'll still play the game but in your absence it won't be the same."
Father Aidan Mullan told mourners that from the outset reflecting on Ryan's life, he is thought of as an athlete who still had" great potential".
He said: "We think of him as an athlete on his prime, who achieved much and still had great potential, a versatile and accomplished footballer, of the thrilling moments he brought to so many supporters of Derry City, and across Ireland, over the past seven years.
"The club management, the team, the supporters, all have been caught up in his natural footballing ability; in his courageous play. As has been said many times: Ryan would put his head where other players would not put their boot. He was brave and knew no fear.
"As captain he was an inspirational leader in the dressing room and on the field of play. In the last several weeks Ryan was pivotal in great performances and contributed greatly to Derry's perfect start to the season; quick reflexes, heady play and competitive spirit, made him a great role model for many young boys and girls as well as City supporters and fans throughout the area."
Fr Mullan told the hundreds gathered of Ryan's "powerful example" and how he was primarily a child of God.
He said: "I have learnt in the last several days that: Ryan's character was forged by the generations of his family; by Ryan's own love as he expressed and lived out his life in spirit and in truth.
"As Ryan comes before God for judgement, Ryan no doubt will receive first class honours."
Fr Mullan told the devastated congregation how some may feel "betrayed" by God following Ryan's sudden death.
He said: "You as a family need many words, different words, at different times."
He continued: "God does not explain why these demands are made of us, and even, I think if He did, we would not be able to understand. Such answers belong to Eternity, at the end of time, when God will wipe away all tears."
Ryan will be buried alongside his mother Noreen at Derry City Cemetery.
West Bromwich Albion and Republic of Ireland midfielder James McClean visited the wake house of his friend.
In a poignant gesture, McClean will don the number five shirt in memory of his former Derry City team-mate when the Republic face Wales tomorrow night in Dublin in a crucial World Cup qualifier.
Yesterday fans continued to mount floral tributes, jerseys and scarves on the fences at The Brandywell, which is undergoing major reconstruction. Since his debut in 2011, McBride had become a mainstay of the defence and a fans' favourite.
He made more than 170 appearances for The Candystripes - more than 50 of them as captain, after he took over the armband two years ago.
Speaking earlier this week, Derry City manager Kenny Shiels said he was "the perfect example to any young player coming through".
Club chief executive Sean Barrett said: "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."