A young Belfast father who was killed following an altercation in the city centre at the weekend at been described as a “devoted family man who had a real zest for life”.
Police have launched a murder investigation after the death of 31-year-old Paul McCready, who passed away in hospital in the early hours of yesterday morning (Sunday).
It is understood the north Belfast man sustained injuries in an incident on Donegall Street, outside the Northern Whig pub, at around 12.50am on Sunday.
A 30-year-old man was arrested at the scene and remains in police custody.
Mr McCready, who worked in the civil service, was a former first team player with Newington FC, which currently plays two leagues down from the Irish League Premier division.
And the Belfast club paid tribute to their former teammate during their Intermediate Cup semi-final clash against Linfield Swifts at Dixon Park, Ballyclare on Monday evening.
The team donned black armbands and held a minute silence ahead of the game as a mark of respect.
In the event, Linfield Swifts won 5-4.
Newington manager, Conor Crossan told the News Letter: “Paul’s death has comes as a terrible shock. He was very quiet, well-mannered and an excellent footballer.”
Describing Paul as a “real family man” and “a really genuine, nice bloke”, Mr Crossan added: “Paul was quite shy. He was not the sort of person you would expect to get caught up in an altercation on a night out. It is very sad indeed and my thoughts and prayers are with his family.
“It will be hard to ask the players to go out and perform tonight, as a lot of guys knew him and would have played with him. Football won’t be the first thing on their minds.”
Former Newington FC player Danny Hale, who was a close friend of Mr Cready, summed him up as a “devoted family man and a real inspiration”.
He added: “Paul played with the first team for a few seasons, but he kept picking up niggling injuries and eventually just packed it in.
“But he got involved in coaching the youngsters when his two boys started playing for the club and he was just brilliant.
“He was so popular with all the young lads and the parents, Paul was always willing to help out and his involvement gave him a new zest for life.
“He was going down and taking kids off an interface to play football, and he got real joy out of it.”
The club paid tribute to Mr McCready on Facebook this morning, stating: “The thoughts and prayers of all involved with Newington FC are with the family of our ex player and friend Paul McCready.
Police have appealed for information surrounding Mr McCready’s death.
Detective Chief Inspector Geoffrey Boyce: “We know that a large number of people were in the vicinity of the Donegall Street/Waring Street junction at around the time this incident took place.
“I would appeal to those people who haven’t yet got in touch with the investigation team to please do so.”
Mr McCready also formerly captained Cliftonville Olympic, the high-flying Premiership squad’s reserve team.