Former Brighton, Wycombe Wanderers and Oxford United defender Paul McCarthy has died of a suspected heart attack, aged just 45 years old, according to Talksport.
Cork-born McCarthy, who played at youth level with Roy Keane, was a former Republic of Ireland Under-21 international and played over 400 league games in the lower divisions of English football.
He started his career as a trainee with Brighton & Hove Albion and went on to make over 200 appearances for them between 1989 and 1996. After that he moved to Wycombe Wanderers, where he spent a mildly successful seven seasons.
Possibly his biggest on-field achievement came at Wycombe, as part of the team who made it to the semi-final of the FA Cup in the 2000/01 season.
In 2003, he moved to Oxford United on an initial loan deal before making the move permanent a few months later. After a season and a bit at Oxford, he dropped down to non-league level with Hornchurch.
That was a move which didn’t last very long and he then signed for Ebbsfleet (then Gravesend & Northleet) in November 2004. He stayed with Ebbsfleet until 2013, was captain when they won the FA Trophy in 2008, and had a spell as player-assistant manager.
As an international, he never quite reached the level for a call-up to the Republic of Ireland senior squad. However, he made several appearances for the Under-21s and was part of the squad which appeared at the FIFA World Youth Championships in 1991.
Tributes have poured in for McCarthy on Twitter, with former clubs among those sending their condolences.
— BHAFC ⚽️ (@OfficialBHAFC) February 20, 2017
We are deeply saddened to hear that Paul McCarthy – a hero of our 2000/01 FA Cup run – has died at the age of only 45. https://t.co/kQLWXqoI6r
— Wycombe Wanderers (@wwfcofficial) February 20, 2017
— Oxford United FC (@OUFCOfficial) February 20, 2017
— Ebbsfleet United FC (@EUFCofficial) February 20, 2017
Paul McCarthy was a rugged, reliable defender – and a really nice bloke. Heart goes out to those close to him. #bhafc
— Andy Naylor (@AndyNaylorArgus) February 20, 2017
@AndyNaylorArgus absolutely terrible! He lived near us during the 90s. Great guy and solid player. RIP Paul ?
— Sarah (@SarahJP26) February 20, 2017
Absolutely gutted about Paul McCarthy. Horrible news. Club legend involved in some of my favourite memories as an Ebbsfleet fan #Eufc
— Adam Twaits (@AdamTwaits) February 20, 2017
RIP Paul McCarthy.the vision of you lifting the FA trophy at Wembley will never ever be forgotten by any Ebbsfleet United supporter x
— Dave Harris (@davehar06705930) February 20, 2017
— James Virgo (@virgsno3) February 20, 2017
Perhaps the most poignant tribute was made by former Ebbsfleet manager Liam Daish, for whom McCarthy was club captain and assistant manager.
At a loss for words at the news my skipper, my assistant, my mate Paul McCarthy has passed away . Sleep well big man . R.I.P ??☘️X
— Liam Daish (@liamdaish) February 20, 2017