Paul Hegarty has described Ryan McBride as a wonderful talent and one of the toughest players he has ever encountered in League of Ireland football.
Hegarty worked with McBride during two separate spells as assistant manager, and then manager at Derry City.
He said news of the City captain’s sudden death on Sunday came as a massive shock.
“I don’t think anyone really got to know Ryan that well because he kept himself very much to himself,” Hegarty said.
“But he was one of those players who did his talking on the pitch.
“He was probably one of the toughest players I have ever come across in my time. He was a proper player and a really nice fellow.
“I know people say a lot of things about a person at a time like this, but he was one of those guys who would be with you in battle and would come out of the trenches for you.
“He was a class player and to be honest he probably hadn’t quite reached his peak. But he had really blossomed under Kenny Shiels.”
Players and officials from Finn Harps, and a host of other clubs in Donegal, will attend the 27-year-old’s funeral in Derry on Thursday. A number of players in the Harps squad are former team-mates of McBride’s from their time at Derry City.
Harps manager Ollie Horgan said McBride was a talented defender who had grown to become one of the hardest players in the league.
“There aren’t many around that you could say are harder than Ryan,” Horgan said.
“He was a proper player. We used to have to double-mark him at set-pieces because he carried such a threat.
“He was such a leader for Derry City and a fantastic captain.
“It’s a terrible loss and our sympathies go to Ryan’s family and to the management and players at Derry City at this very sad time.”
Former Finn Harps manager, Peter Hutton, was also McBride’s manager at the Brandywell. In an interview with the Derry Journal this week, Hutton recalled making the player his captain ahead of the 2015 League of Ireland campaign and described how he ‘skipped out of the room’ and was beaming with pride.
“The captain’s role was just made for him,” said Hutton. “When I was choosing it there was nobody else, I just had to make sure Ryan was okay with it but I didn’t really need to ask him.
“He was beaming and wore it with pride. I know what it meant to him to lead his team out in front of his family.”
A minute’s silence will be observed prior to Saturday night’s Premier Division meeting of Finn Harps and Sligo Rovers at Finn Park.
The FAI have also announced plans to remember the defender with a tribute at the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup qualifier against Wales at the Aviva Stadium on Friday night.