Sad passing of former footballer and firefighter

Tribute has been paid following the death of former Carrickfergus footballer and firefighter Stuart Hilditch.

Mr Hilditch, who was in his 30s, passed away in hospital on Tuesday morning after a long and courageous battle with illness.

Stuart Hilditch on the attack for Barn Utd. ct45-316fm.

Stuart Hilditch on the attack for Barn Utd. ct45-316fm.

A father of three, he was the son of long-serving East Antrim DUP MLA and former Carrickfergus councillor, Davy Hilditch.

Stuart, a former council worker, was a well-known figure in footballing circles.

He began his career as goalkeeper, playing for the Carrick Rangers senior team while still in his teens and earning representative recognition for Northern Ireland at youth level.

Stuart later switched to outfield, enjoying spells as a prolific goalscorer with east Antrim clubs Islandmagee, Barn Utd and Wellington Rec.

He was also an avid follower of the Northern Ireland international football team.

Stuart served as a part-time firefighter in his hometown and was a member of the Loyal Orange Institution.

Councillor Marc Collins, secretary of the East Antrim Association of the DUP, said: “On behalf of the Association I would like to send our condolences to David and the entire family circle at this very difficult time.”

In a social media post on Tuesday, Islandmagee FC said: “Everyone at Islandmagee FC would like to pass on all our condolences to the Hilditch family on the passing of our former striker Stuart this morning. May he rest in peace.”