GLITW: Draped in Candystripes Forever

15th November 2023

By Gary Ferry   Derry City is a club steeped in tradition and success, but in the past few years it has been struck by terrible tragedy, with the deaths of two of its finest ever players.   It is still hard to believe, or accept, that Mark Farren

By Gary Ferry


Derry City is a club steeped in tradition and success, but in the past few years it has been struck by terrible tragedy, with the deaths of two of its finest ever players.


It is still hard to believe, or accept, that Mark Farren, at 33, and Ryan McBride, at 27, are gone, two absolute gentlemen that were role models on and off the pitch. Seemingly born to wear the candystriped jerseys, both men won the hearts of the Derry City supporters for their passion, commitment and talent, which they had in abundance.


The least that supporters want from their players is effort, and in this aspect both players led the way, but they also had loyalty, and a deep-rooted love for the club and its supporters.


Be it Farren finding the net and racing away with arms outstretched or McBride throwing himself into headers and tackles that he had no right winning, both players had one thing in common – greatness.


Derry City legends through and through, neither will ever be forgotten.





Saturday, October 30, 2010 is a day Derry City supporters will never forget, and it has nothing to do with what happened on a football pitch.


That was the night when Derry confirmed their return to the Premier Division after a year in exile in the First Division. The Candystripes travelled to Gortakeegan one point ahead of their hosts, Monaghan United, and knowing that a draw or a win would seal their fate.


The game itself was entirely forgettable, aside from a moment 10 minutes from time when Emmett Friars whipped over a low cross in the direction of the front post and there was Mark Farren to knock the ball into the net from close range. He made it look so simple.


That goal won the game, won the League title and won promotion for a club which had been shamed in their expulsion from the top flight just 12 months earlier.


However, the celebrations were muted for one reason. The first whispers of Farren’s battle against a brain tumour began just as the fans began to file into Gortakeegen and by the time a ball was kicked, it was confirmed: it would be his last game. He was to take time away from the game to fight that battle, and his Derry career, which had burst into life with a hat-trick against Limerick in the relegation semi-final play-off back in 2003, was finally at an end.


The player himself didn’t want to make a big deal of it, and talked optimistically of his challenges ahead. All the while, his wife Terri stood at his side and insisted that it wasn’t the end. He would be back she insisted. This was just a brief time-out from the game.


The Derry players donned t-shirts in Farren’s honour that night and when he lifted the First Division title above his shoulders, the biggest cheer of the night roared around the dilapidated Monaghan ground.


It was hard not to wonder if we would see him again. It was hard not to feel hurt for a man and a player who had been nothing short of a hero for the guts of a decade.


Farren was back to his best back in 2008, and it was no coincidence that his resurgence arrived with the return of Stephen Kenny from Dunfermline. That season he scored 16 league goals, 25 in all on his way to becoming the Premier Division’s top goalscorer award. 


He eventually returned to football at Sligo Rovers in September 2011. Every supporter in The Showgrounds was on their feet as he came on as a substitute just a matter of months after retiring prematurely from the game. He scored against Galway a month later and it was hard not to marvel at his strength of character, and his intense desire to get back to the game he loved.


September 14, 2012 was the day we had all been waiting for. Liam Coyle’s 112 goal record for Derry was finally beaten and having been so close to the record for so long, it was both a relief and a delight that Farren achieved his goal before his time at the club came to an end. A superb hat-trick against Mervue, which included two goals in two second-half minutes took him from 110 to 113, and there he will stay forever. It’s a record that is highly unlikely to ever be broken.


The return of Farren’s illness hit everyone hard, and his declining health even more so. He was an inspiration no doubt - to his fans, to his team-mates and to those battling their own health problems behind closed doors. He never gave up. Ever. We should all be so lucky to be remembered so fondly.


Mark Farren made it look so easy.





‘In your absence, we will still play the game, but in your absence, it won’t be the same’.


Derry manager Kenny Shiels struggled to get through the final two lines of his poem at the funeral mass of Ryan McBride, but those 18 words hit his fellow mourners like a hammer, and there was not a dry eye in St. Columba’s Church as he returned to his pew to sit alongside the Derry City players. 


Just days earlier, the club celebrated their fourth win in four games, maintaining their 100 per cent start to the season. After beating Bohemians, Shamrock Rovers, Dundalk and Drogheda, the Candystripes were on top of the world, and captain McBride, with two goals and two clean sheets in that time, was pride personified. But just over 24 hours after he left the pitch at Maginn Park, he was gone, found dead at home by his devastated family.


It was, and remains, an incredible blow to everyone whose heart is at the club, the third such tragedy to hit the club in just 13 months, following the death of Mark Farren and the awful Buncrana Pier tragedy which took the lives of five members of then City player Josh Daniels’ family.


At only 27 years of age, McBride was stronger and fitter than he had ever been at the club, growing into the role of club captain and leader both figuratively and literally over the previous few seasons. His passion on the pitch, his unyielding drive to win the ball, be it in the air or on the ground, and often to his own personal cost, will be forever remembered. He gave everything for the shirt he wore.


How many times did we see McBride get hurt in the line of duty, only to get right back up again and play as if nothing had happened?


In the last week of his life, he played against Dundalk, and despite being ill, picked himself up off the grass and went up for a corner, and scored the goal which sealed Derry’s first win over Stephen Kenny’s champions in almost four years.


His performance prompted the following words from Kenny Shiels: “No other player on this planet would have played that game, only Ryan McBride.”


That was the spirit of McBride that he was known for and which he was loved for. To say he led by example is an understatement. He led this team, this young group of players and he did so knowing full well the weight of responsibility of the captain’s armband on his shoulders.


Who could ever forget the tackle at Turners Cross? Two Cork City players were left lying in a heap by one tackle and he just got up and got on with it. The referee didn’t even see the challenge but when he looked around and saw two Cork players writhing in agony he decided that something must have happened to warrant a yellow card.


There has never been, nor will there ever be, another tackle like it. Derry supporters sang and will continue to sing ‘Ryan McBride - He’ll pour you a pint and he’ll break your leg.’ It is a song completely tongue-in-cheek, but it showed the adoration they had for their captain and a player who they knew would run through a brick wall for them if he needed to.


When he scored the winner against Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght in March, it was his first goal in 18 months, but the joy on his face when he volleyed the ball into the Tallaght net, and in his memorable celebration, showed what it meant to him. He was at it again just three days later against Dundalk, and even though he said he preferred a clean sheet over a goal, the joy on his face was there for all to see.


Ryan McBride was born to play for Derry City. From the Brandywell, he grew up to wear the red and white stripes, walking home after games, just a stone’s throw away from the ground.


He arrived under Stephen Kenny, grew under Declan Devine and he thrived under Peter Hutton. He became a leader under Kenny Shiels, all the while assuming the role of captain on and off the pitch.


Ryan McBride was - is - a legend.


Never again will a player pull on the Derry City shirt who gave it so much, so passionately and so thoroughly. It is a devastating loss to all of us who had the pleasure of knowing him, of cheering him, and of believing in him.


A true leader of a football club.