Local football clubs stood united in tribute this week after the tragic death of Islandmagee’s Stuart Ross.
Rivalries and results meant nothing as news filtered through of the 25-year-old’s untimley passing on Saturday afternoon. Countless clubs and players expressed their condolences on Twitter and Facebook.
Stuart died suddenly while playing for Islandmagee Seconds against Shankill United’s reserve team at Wilbourne Park.
Midway through the first-half he collapsed in the Amateur League game.
His team-mate, former Carrick Rangers captain, Noel Dean, was one of those who tried to revive him on the pitch.
He told the Times: “We were running back, defending a Shankill attack and I was about 20 feet from Stuart and he just, all of a sudden, stopped and shouted towards the manager. He called his name and said, ‘Alan, I need to go off’.”
After he rushed over, Mr Dean said he quickly realised that Stuart wasn’t breathing.
“I’ll never forget it,” he said. “I’ve been playing football for probably 40 years, I’m 48 this year, but I have never seen anything like that on the pitch and I never want to see anything like it again. It was absolutely horrendous.”
He added: “I hadn’t known Stuart for that long. That was his first match back after a pre-season friendly ... but I think I’m a fairly good judge of character and, for me, he was a real good sort. A nice big lad; a big, quiet fella who carried himself very well and I would say he was an absolute credit to his family. Anyone I’ve spoken to have all had a good word for him. A good lad.”
Stuart’s sporting interests didn’t stop with football. He was part of Islandmagee darts team which plays in the Larne and District Darts League.