Ryan McBride in action against Dundalk's Stephen O'Donnell at Oriel Park last season. Picture: Ciaran Culligan
Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny has paid tribute to Derry City captain Ryan McBride who passed away at the age of 27 on Sunday night.
Kenny handed McBride his League of Ireland debut in 2011 during his second spell as Candsytripes manager and speaking to the Dundalk Democrat on Monday morning, the Lilywhites boss said he was struggling to come to terms with the news.
“It doesn't seem real, to be honest. Ryan was quiet and understated and a great person,” said Kenny.
“Only last week he scored two goals in two games, the winner against Shamrock Rovers and against us in Buncrana. It's a real tragedy.
“He was only 27 but was the captain of Derry City for the past couple of years and that shows you how well thought of he was.
"The supporters loved him. Everybody in Derry would have viewed him as one of their own.
"He lived in one of those houses beside the Brandywell that you could nearly watch matches from his bedroom window.”
McBride made 177 appearances for his local club - 57 of them as captain - after joining the club as a 21-year-old from junior football.
“We had a group of eight or nine players at Derry who came through the youth team, the likes of James McClean and Daniel Lafferty who went on to become internationals,” explained Kenny.
“Ryan didn't come through that way. He took an unconventional route. He was playing for Brandywell Harps in the Saturday morning league which would be the equivalent of the Dundalk Summer League.
“If you look at that now it's quite unique. Even back then, nobody really came through to the League of Ireland that way.
“There aren't many players who can make an impact like that but Ryan was similar to Kevin Moran, he wore his heart on his sleeve, he'd attack a ball and he'd lead his team,” he continued.
“He was a shy lad and wasn't at the same level as the rest of the players when he first came in but he became one the most swashbuckling and spectacular centre-backs around.
“Ryan wasn't one for the limelight but he was one of the bravest players I've seen, ferociously tough and the kind of defender that centre-forwards hated playing against.”
McBride came into a star-studded Derry City team that included current Dundalk attacker, Patrick McEleney, and Lilywhites coach and analyst, Ruaidhri Higgins. It wasn't long, however, before his performances caught the eye of opposition managers.
“He made his debut in 2011 and shortly after that, we played against Shamrock Rovers in a game that was live on RTE. Shane McEleney, Patrick's brother, played beside him at the back,” recalled Kenny.
“Brian McDermott, who was the Reading manager at the time, was at it with Pat Dolan and was expected to make a bid for James McClean.
“I spoke with Brian after the game and he said he wouldn't be making an offer for James but he wanted to know what the story was with Ryan. I said ‘he's only after making his debut!'”
Michael Duffy also played alongside McBride, as did Lilywhites defender Niclas Vemmelund, who joined Dundalk after featuring prominently with Derry City last season.
“Patrick McEleney obviously played in the same team as Ryan back in 2011 and Michael Duffy would have come in after that. I don't know what happened in the years following that but I'd imagine, being Derry lads, they were all close,” said Kenny.
Vemmelund took to Instagram to pay tribute to his former teammate, saying: “It was a pleasure to play with you and getting to know you. There will never be a legend and skipper as you again. RIP. #captainfantastic.”