Tributes have been paid to former Northern Ireland captain Alan McDonald who died on Saturday morning aged 48.
McDonald won 52 caps and represented his country at the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico. An Irish Football Association (IFA) spokesman said Northern Ireland football had lost a "true gentleman and legend". An official statement read: "The IFA is saddened by the sudden death of Alan McDonald. Our thoughts are with his family at this time."
Belfast-born McDonald, who made more than 400 appearances for English side Queens Park Rangers FC as a centre-back, was on the coaching staff with the Northern Ireland Under-21s. He also led Irish League club Glentoran FC to the Northern Irish title in 2009 before stepping down from the post the following year.
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill, who played alongside McDonald in the national team in the late 1980s and early 90s, said he was "deeply saddened" by the news. "Alan was a fantastic player and captain during my time in the senior squad," said O'Neill. "He will be missed by everyone associated with Northern Ireland football. My thoughts and sympathies go to his family at this sad time."
Former Northern Ireland striker Gerry Armstrong, who played alongside McDonald at the 1986 World Cup, said he was "stunned" by the news. "Off the pitch, Alan was such a lovely guy and on it he was a very talented footballer," he said. "He was a good old-fashioned centre-half and a born leader who captained Northern Ireland with distinction."
Tommy Wright, the man who often kept goal for Northern Ireland behind McDonald, described him as a "man of honesty and integrity". Wright added: "Alan was someone who gave 100% for his country and his sudden death is a massive shock.
"He was a great footballer but an even better person. He had the utmost respect of his team-mates and became a wonderful ambassador for Northern Ireland football." Former national team manager Sammy McIlroy, who also played with McDonald, said: "Alan was always larger than life. I am shellshocked."
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