THE son of well-respected sportsman, the late Derek Beresford, has paid tribute to his inspirational father following his sudden passing, calling him a “gentleman who would help anyone that he could, when he could”.

Crowds of mourners lined the streets of Enniskillen to pay their final respects as Derek’s funeral cortège journeyed past his beloved home of No. 5, Factory Road, on the afternoon of Thursday, September 2.

The number of people standing out was a testament to the many lives he had impacted over his 73 years, through his sporting endeavours, career and everyday life.

Derek died suddenly at his home on August 28 following a heart attack. He had been watching Manchester City playing Arsenal in a Premier League fixture – a match his youngest son Ricky was in attendance at, that night in Manchester.

As he left the Etihad Stadium following Manchester City’s 5-0 win, Ricky received the devastating news of his father’s untimely death.

“I’d literally just walked out of the Etihad and got the call. I was just numb. It was absolute shock and devastation. When you lose a parent, it’s just immeasurable,” a heartbroken Ricky told this newspaper.

Derek was a family man through and through. He was married to the love of his life, Sandra, and together they shared a long and happy marriage, with their 50th wedding anniversary to have been celebrated this Saturday, September 11.

He was the perfect role model to his two sons, and later a doting grandfather to his five grandchildren.

Calling his father an inspiration to himself and his older brother, Shane, Ricky said: “He led by example, how he led his own life in terms of getting on with people. He was very much a cross-community guy.

“He influenced us the most by how he just took us everywhere. The childhood adventures growing up with a father like mine were going to yield several certain outcomes on your character. You’ll be sporty, competitive, sociable and never late,” he added with a smile.

Derek worked at Fermanagh College (the Tech) in Enniskillen for 44 years, taking on the role of assistant caretaker in January, 1967, and later becoming Estates Manager.

“Everybody that worked with him at Fermanagh College, it was always the same, they said he was ‘A gentleman, a pleasure to be around, so helpful’.

“My mother often referred to the Tech as ‘the second wife’, he was so dedicated to it. He loved it,” said Ricky.

Derek was a passionate sportsman. In the world of sport, football was his first love; playing with, refereeing and managing teams throughout his life.

He was a highly-decorated and well respected Fermanagh and Western (F&W) referee for more than 10 years and presided over several local cup finals, including the Mulhern Cup Final in 1977. He also ran the line in the Irish League top flight.

“An accomplished player in his day, it was no wonder he starred in the F&W referees five-a-side team, who won countless NI titles in the 1980s which saw them travel across the water to compete with the champions, Scotland, England and Wales, for the UK title which always just eluded them. He loved those days,” said Ricky.

After refereeing, he became Manager at Enniskillen Town United, taking on the position in 1986. As the team’s new leader, Derek helped them fulfil their potential until his resignation in 1988.

“He clearly felt his work was done. He planted seeds, brought discipline and purpose to a club that will forever be close to ours hearts,” said Ricky.

Aside from football, Derek enjoyed cricket, playing for Enniskillen Cricket Club in the early to mid 80s. Later he became fascinated with golf, playing at Blacklion before joining Enniskillen Golf Club, where he forged many friendships along with countless successes over a near two decade-long membership.

He also loved snooker and was a lifelong member of Wellington Snooker Club.

As a sportsman, Derek was very well respected and had made many friends through the various clubs he was involved with.

“For somebody that was so involved in sport and football, and somebody that would have sent people off, nobody has a bad word to say about him. That’s quite unique,” said Ricky of his father’s affable personality.

Derek’s funeral service took place at St. Macartin’s Cathedral, Enniskillen on September 2, and was led by Dean Kenneth Hall.

During the service, Ricky paid tribute to his late father. He said: “It is not lost on us now, and it never was, how fortunate we were to have such a dedicated, supportive and sound man to guide us through life.

“He was an outstanding example of what ‘being a good person’ should be.”

Beloved husband of Sandra, dearly loved father of Shane (Dawn) and Ricky (Donna), devoted grandad to Rhys, Tori, Ben, Tilly and Sammy, and a dear brother of Hazel, Pearl, Glen, Howard, Evelyn, Patsy, Sydney, Jean and the late Lilias, Derek is lovingly remembered by his family and all the family circle.

"We were truly blessed to have such a wonderful father and grandfather, he was a great example to follow and guided you through life," said Ricky.