Ballymena United chairman: Fan’s death has saddened us all

Long-time Ballymena fan Tommy Matthews
Long-time Ballymena fan Tommy Matthews

Ballymena United Football Club has paid tribute to the long-time supporter who took ill at Saturday’s Irish Cup match and later died.

Issuing the news to supporters on social media on Saturday night, the Irish League club said 80-year-old Glenwherry man Tommy Matthews had followed his “beloved” Sky Blues since the late 1950s.

Mr Matthews took ill during the match and despite the best efforts of club doctors, paramedics who were watching the game and volunteers from St John Ambulance, he later passed away.

“It is with the heaviest of hearts that we just received news that the gentleman who took unwell at today’s match has since passed away,” a post on Ballymena’s Facebook page read.

Mr Matthews had been attending Ballymena’s fifth-round tie against Moyola Park at The Showgrounds.

Special mention was given to club doctors Brian Patterson and Steven McCurdy, paramedics who happened to be watching the game, and the volunteers of the St John Ambulance. The club said they “provided the highest level of attention to Mr Matthews but sadly their hard work was in vain”.

“The club wishes to pass on deepest and heartfelt sympathies to the family and friends of Mr Matthews,” United added.

Speaking to the News Letter yesterday, Ballymena chairman John Taggart paid tribute to Mr Matthews as “a lifetime Ballymena United supporter home and away who was well known and highly respected by his fellow supporters”.

Mr Taggart continued: “I knew Tommy for many years as a loyal supporter of Ballymena United.

“As the club statement said, he’s been following the club for 60 years plus. He was well known to Ballymena fans as someone who attended games home and away. He was at the Cliftonville match only last Tuesday night.”

The club chairman admitted the incident had been a shock for the club and its supporters.

He added: “It came as a shock to all of us, especially the circumstances with Tommy taking ill at the match itself and especially because the supporter concerned was so well known and respected by all of us. Tommy’s wife predeceased him many years ago but on behalf of Ballymena United Football club I would pass on our condolences to his daughter at this sad time.”

Ballymena defender Jim Ervin expressed his shock with a post on Twitter: “Terrible news to hear tonight. Thoughts and prayers are with Tommy’s friends and family. RIP.”