Football fans from both sides of the border were united in mourning yesterday after the tragic death of a Northern Ireland fan during Euro 2016.
Ballymena man Darren Rodgers, 24, died after accidentally falling eight metres (26ft) over a barrier onto a beach in Nice at 2am yesterday morning.
Social media was awash with tributes from friends to the talented Braid United footballer yesterday, while several Northern Ireland players also tweeted their sympathies to his family.
Republic of Ireland supporters sang ‘Stand up for the Ulster Man’ in the 24th minute of their match against Sweden in Paris last night as a mark of solidarity, which was echoed simultaneously at the fan zone at Titanic Belfast. Their support prompted Northern Ireland fans to take to social media, describing the respectful actions of their southern cousins as “beautiful”.
Ulster’s world champion boxer Carl Frampton tagged the move “amazing” while Northern Ireland fan Gary Wilson tweeted: “The power of sport...ROI fans singing stand up for the Ulstermen in honour of Darren Rodgers. That’s what it’s all about.”
Republic of Ireland fan Mairead McMahon, 23, tweeted: “No one should go to watch football and not come home. #GAWA”.
The electrician and keen footballer was top goal scorer at a former club. His current club was Braid United in Ballymena where he was known as ‘Dardar’ and he missed out on becoming top scorer this season by a single goal.
His friend Adam Wright said on Facebook: “Darren Rodgers, such a warm person. Only got to know you for a season at Braid but you were so welcoming to me. Never put anything like this up before but you were a great guy. Horrible news. Thinking of your family.”
Bobbie-Lee Mullan added: “Absolutely gutted to hear about this, RIP we Dar Dar, ️thinking of his poor family, and all my Ballymena boys at this horrendous time. Xx.”
PSNI Supt Nigel Goddard, who was in France, said it appeared to have been a tragic accident. Floral tributes grew at the scene yesterday.
Northern Ireland player Gareth McAuley tweeted: “You think things are bad then learn one of your own loses his life last night. Thoughts with family and friends.”
His colleague midfielder Steven Davis tweeted: “So sad to wake up to the tragic news that a Northern Ireland fan has died in Nice, thoughts with his family and friends.”
Irish Football Association chief executive Patrick Nelson said: “On behalf of the board, management, players and staff of the Irish Football Association, I would like to express my deep sadness at the tragic death of a Northern Ireland supporter in Nice in the early hours of this morning. The thoughts of everyone at the association are with his family and friends at this time.”
Northern Ireland players will wear black armbands for Thursday’s game with Ukraine as a mark of respect.