Ryan McBride's spirit of giving lives on through his foundation's community work

Thu, Dec 21 2017

Derry fans pay tribute to Ryan McBride in Tallaght. Credit: Michael P Ryan

If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run, Yours is the Earth and everything in it. What’s more, you’ll be a man- my son!


If - Rudyard Kipling


Ryan McBride was a proud Derry man who lived his 27 years in a way many people would have dreamed of.


Kids around the Creggan and Brandywell areas revered the iconic centre half, who threw himself into combat on the pitch in the true spirit of a general leading his army into battle.


McBride had chances to leave Derry for more lucrative offers but remained loyal to the club that he walked past every day of his life, dreaming of pulling on the Candystripe shirt.


The Candystripe troops were mounting a serious charge on the league title at the beginning of the 2017 season with their inspirational skipper to the fore, scoring twice in a four-game winning streak.


That run came to a crushing end after the passing of their commander-in-chief shortly after victory at home to Drogheda United in March.


However, while his influence could no longer be felt on the field, thanks to the formation of the Ryan McBride Foundation it is now off field issues in the local area where Ryan McBride and his legacy could provide inspiration.


The Foundation is made up of volunteers who give their time for free and includes Ryan’s father Lexie, his sister Caitlin, his partner Mairead, his brother in law Gareth, Kenny Shiels, Ger Doherty, club legend Liam Coyle and Karen Pyne of the Brandywell Pride Supporters Club.


The Foundation was set up with the aim of helping young people achieve their full potential through sport. In practical terms, this involves providing kits or training equipment to clubs, providing young people with coaching and mentoring to assist them with their development on and off the pitch.


The Foundation is assisted by players from Derry City FC who the Foundation provide work to during the off-season and promote as role models to young people.


The Foundation was launched in the Everglades Hotel in May this year with a black-tie ball and charity auction where guests such as Johnny Giles, Phil Coulter, Damien McGinty and May McFetteridge regaled the guests before memorabilia donated by high-profile stars such as James McClean, Carl Frampton, Eunan O’Kane, and Mayo GAA’s Lee Keegan were auctioned to raise money for the Foundation.


In addition to the launch night, a LOI shirt auction was organised by Sligo Rovers fan Aaron Cawley while former Dundalk community coach and cub promotion officer Dean Arrowsmith ran the Chicago Marathon in honour of the Foundation and Shelbourne kitman Johnny Watson did the Phoenix Park Run.


Speaking with extratime.ie, Ryan’s brother-in-law, Gareth McCay, expressed his gratitude.


“There’s something special when people from different parts of Ireland and indeed different parts of the world contact us to fundraise.


“It shows the great regard in which Ryan is held outside of our own city. You really see the best in people.”


The most recent high-profile fundraising events for the Foundation were the PFAI Awards and annual 5km run before the FAI Cup Final where runners included representatives of every LOI club and the Soccer Republic Crew.


The Foundation also have an online store where O’Neills branded sportswear with the McBride Foundation image is available. According to McCay, the Foundation’s online store has despatched items to every county in Ireland as well as England, Germany, Australia and the USA.


The Foundation have been active in trying to create cross community links through providing coaching workshops at primary school level, a Halloween camp and a goalkeeping masterclass with Derry City netminders Ger Doherty and Eric Grimes – the fruits of which have already seen both sides of the sectarian divide unite through sport.


Ryan McBride holds the respect of both sides of the community in Derry and the Foundation see this as key to bring young people together through sport.


The Primary School Coaching Programme spanned six weeks and was free of charge and open to all primary schools in the city who expressed an interest.


Coaches involved in the sessions included Derry City players Aaron McEneff, Ben Doherty, Conor McDermott and Dean Jarvis (who has since signed for Dundalk) as well as Rosie Cunningham of the Derry City Ladies team.


The six-week term finished up last Friday on what would have been Ryan McBride’s 28th birthday with a primary school five-a-side soccer tournament. Young players battling it out to win the inaugural Ryan McBride Trophy was a fitting way to celebrate the first birthday since his passing.


One week earlier a Ryan McBride Foundation Select played the now famous Oxford Bulls in a challenge game.


The Foundation Select fielded stars such as Ger Doherty, Aaron McEneff, Rory Patterson, Joshua Daniels and Conor McDermott but were humbled 6-4 by the mighty Bulls!


The Foundation presented the Bulls with a cheque and a gift bag of football equipment to each member of the squad.


The Bulls are made up of young footballers who have Downs Syndrome and were the subject of national prominence during the summer when Derry native James McClean called in for a kick-around and highlighted that the Bulls were finding it difficult to find teams to play against.


McCay explains that prior to Ryan’s death he had contacted the Bulls manager Kevin Morrison to ask if he could get involved and was due to attend their upcoming training sessions.


“Ryan never got to make his visit to the Bulls so it felt right that we set up the game last week. We gave each child a Foundation pack and made a donation to their upcoming trip to Liverpool. We fulfilled the fixture for Ryan and continue the good work Ryan did before he died.”


McClean has played a supportive role in the Foundation so far and is due to remain involved in the future.


What are the plans for the Foundation in the future?


So far, the Foundation have raised around £40,000 and have recently employed a part-time employee to deal with enquiries, ongoing programmes and future fund-raising plans etc.


McCay explains: “The response to the Foundation has been phenomenal and it has grown at a rapid pace which has been difficult for us to manage as we are all volunteers and have our own full-time jobs.


“The Foundation is Ryan’s legacy so it has to be done right so we felt we needed someone on board to manage the day to day running and to keep the Foundation progressing.


“We have raised a fantastic amount but we have been using the funding as many of our programmes are free or run at a loss – we never want cost to be a barrier for any child.”


A major objective for the Foundation is to secure government funding in order to set up a 'second-chance academy' for 17-20 year olds who have fallen out of the education system and/or been released by a football club.


The aim is to provide these young people with the information to make good life choices for themselves as well as helping them realise their sporting potential.


The motto of the Foundation is “Changing Lives Through Football” and three key elements in achieving this are, “supporting”, “assisting” and “inspiring.”


Another objective is the potential renaming of the revamped Brandywell in memory of McBride, whose home overlooked the stadium, and who took the road less travelled by joining Derry City at 19 years of age after playing junior football and rose to the rank of captain and one of the best defenders in the League of Ireland.


The application process to have the new stadium named in memory of their iconic number five is underway, McCay explain.


“The re-naming is about more than just Ryan’s tenure with Derry City. Ryan lived all of his life 100 yards from the stadium – he played for Ballymoor, Brandwell Celtic and Brandywell Harps, who also call the Brandywell their home stadium.


“Ryan is a hero to the people of the Brandywell and the stadium is the only thing in the area that could be named after him. The new stand is quite rightly named after Mark Farren who is a club legend and the Southend Stand is not in a fit state to bear anyone’s name never mind Ryan’s.


“It is unchartered territory – a supporter and a one club man, living 100 yards from the ground, dies whilst club captain one day after leading the club to victory. We are engaging with interested parties and hope it will be in place by the first home game.”


In order to secure funds to set up the Academy this year, the Foundation have organised a Legends 6-a-side tournament with teams from Soccer Republic, the FAI, the LOI, Derry City and the Irish FA already committed to play at the Brandywell on Easter Monday (2nd April). The Foundation’s dinner dance will take place in the Everglades that evening.


The final words are left to McCay, who spoke both about the Foundation and the young people involved.


“A lot of the children involved will never be sports stars but it is about encouraging them to have dreams and aims and to try and achieve that dream through hard work, discipline and dedication.


“That is how Ryan did it and will always be immensely proud of him.”


If you’re inspired to support or assist with the fundraising, please visit https://mcbride5foundation.com/