BANBRIDGE Rangers have led the sporting tributes to Lance Corporal Stephen McKee.
Stephen was a keen sportsman, having played football for Banbridge Rangers as well as having a stint at Seapatrick. He also played rugby for Banbridge.
In a statement Rangers expressed sympathy to Lance Corporal McKee’s family. “Stephen was a well respected member of the club and was highly regarded and thought off by all of the players, management and officials of Banbridge Rangers Football Club.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Carley, his parents Bobby and Heather, his brothers Robert, Michael and Gareth and sisters Kelly and Rebecca.
“Stephen’s playing career with Banbridge Rangers started on December 2, 2006 when he made his debut for the first team against Killeavy in a Mid Ulster Shield Cup match in Newry.
“He went on to play regularly for the team over the next period and was instrumental in helping Banbridge Rangers start an unbeaten run which eventually saw the team lift the Division Four title later in that season.
“Stephen became an integral part of Banbridge Rangers first team in the following season and had continued to play up until the end of 2008 when work commitments dictated the amount of time Stephen was able to commit to playing.
“‘Wee Walter’, as he was affectionately known, was always dependable and will be fondly remembered by all of those who played alongside him and came into contact with him.
“Banbridge Rangers Football Club has had the continued support from Stephen and all of the McKee family over the years with Stephen’s sisters Kelly and Rebecca playing with the ladies football team.”
As a mark of respect Banbridge Rangers Football Club postponed all senior and youth matches due to be played on Saturday.
The statement concluded, “Stephen will be sadly missed throughout the community and our sincerest condolences go out to all of his friends and family circle at this sad time.”
Meanwhile Banbridge Rugby Club said on their website, “It was with great sadness that the club learnt of the death of Stephen McKee. Stephen, who was killed in Afghanistan whilst serving for the Royal Irish Regiment, had played for the club over a number of seasons.
“The President, Committee and members extend their deepest sympathy to Stephen’s wife, parents, brothers and sisters.”
A statement from Seapatrick Football Club read, “Along life’s path we meet some very genuine and kind people and anyone who had the pleasure of meeting Stephen McKee can certainly say both those things about him.
He was a true gentleman who loved his family and was loved equally right back. His other loves were his army life and, after switching from playing rugby for a number of years, football became his new passion.
“It was at Seapatrick were he made the switch from the oval ball to the round ball. A marauding right back who trained hard and played with total commitment. Loyal to the club and well disciplined, traits that would find him well for his army life.
“Stevie was a true friend to all who met him and he will be sadly missed but never forgotten.”
The Seapatrick statement added, “At the going down of the sun and in the morning we shall remember them.
“John Chapter 15 v 13 ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’”
A minutes silence was observed before Saturday’s Seapatrick game in respect of Lance Corporal McKee. Seapatrick players and officials would like to convey their heartfelt sympathy to the McKee family circle who are in their thoughts at this sad time.