"I hope they can use me as an example" - I'll never forget the first time I met Ryan McBride
Back in 2012, I felt like I was the one being thrown in at the deep end.
I was working in the Derry News and the Derry Post at the time covering predominantly GAA when circumstance dictated that I'd be the one responsible for the preview coverage of Derry City's FAI Cup final clash with St. Pat's.
I had only been to a handful of games at the Brandywell that season and most of those I was late to, making my way there straight from training - yep, GAA training.
Then I was told that it'd be a 24-page pullout and most of the ads had already been sold for it and the lads in production weren't too keen on having all that extra work on deadline day so I'd better hurry the hell up.
Thankfully, the club organised a media day a week out from the decider in Dublin so I thought I'd go there and kill 24 birds with one stone.
I had it all planned out, which player I needed, what story was going where but there are only so many mouths you can hold a dictaphone to at once and my idea for McBride was vanishing because players were slipping by me one by one and back out of the stadium as someone else rambled on.
Going to a media day and interview 10 personalities and not having Ryan McBride would've looked bloody stupid, to be honest.
I made chase, literally sprinting after him outside the gates of the Brandywell because everyone in Derry wanted a piece of this man mountain new centre back who had sprung to national fame in crazy time and seemingly from nowhere. You see, it was only the year before that Ryan McBride was playing in a summer cup at the Showgrounds, Derry's training ground, and he was soon discovered.
In the space of 12 months or so, he had gone from wearing the green of Brandywell Celtic to the green of the League of Ireland Select side chosen to play Celtic at the Aviva. Now, he was going back to Lansdowne Road for a second time when there was still probably some mud on his boots from the boggy fields of Derry's Saturday Morning League.
And there was me actually thinking that I was the one in the deep end.
Missing this man for an interview ahead of the FAI Cup final would've been stupid. I would've had the editor, for one, cursing me and the readers thinking what the hell I was playing at up there.
So I caught up with him on the Lone Moor Road as he headed for home and I shamelessly begged him for 30 seconds of his time to go over the same stuff he had just spent an hour going over with everyone else. I was almost afraid to look him in the eyes such was my desperation and his imposing posture.
"No bother," the response came. Simple as that. What are you worried about?
Back then, McBride was new to the Derry team. He spoke politely and he spoke honestly and he maintained that even as his reputation grew.
Speaking of his rise from a Sunday league player to one of Declan Devine's brightest prospects in 2012, he tried to put it into words but it boiled down to how much he wanted it and he wanted it a hell of a lot more than most people.
"Two years ago, I was playing in the Saturday and Sunday morning league and there's no big fuss there," he said.
"Now I'm going to the Aviva again. It's not something I'm used to.
"My da's going down and my uncle and all my sisters and that so I'd love to make them proud and bring the trophy back."
He did. In his first season with his hometown club, McBride was flung on in extra time with the game in the balance and asked to guide Derry home. They got another goal and won the cup 3-2.
This was only the beginning for this man. He had now lit the way for the youth all over the city. It didn't matter what your football background, if you were good enough and honest enough, you could make the breakthrough.
"I hope they can use me as an example," he said of his hometown natives.
"I mean, I just put the head down and I worked hard and obviously it paid off.
"I'm here now at the minute and I'd love to stay here."
Five years later, McBride is a Derry City legend. He's captain. He's a giant. He's a hero.
He did more than stay there. He fulfilled his dreams. And he did it all by just working hard. Like a dog. Somehow, through it all, managing to maintain that unmistakable class that made him so much more than a warrior.
It made him one of Derry's favourite sons.
— Paul Moore (@ElChiefMoore) March 19, 2017
I got a couple of minutes with him outside the Brandywell six years ago. I won't forget it.
That's the sort of man Ryan McBride was. That's the sort of effect he had on this world every day.