In the high pressure world of modern football, there is usually little room for fairness or sporting gestures.
But Dungannon Swifts player Darren Murphy is proof that — every so often — sportsmanship is still alive.
He deliberately missed a penalty awarded against an opposition player who had caught the ball when a team-mate was injured.
The bizarre incident occurred during an Irish League match between Dungannon and Ballymena United on Tuesday afternoon.
It came at a crucial juncture, with the game still scoreless.
However, his gesture would go unrewarded as Dungannon lost the match 4-2.
Yet Murphy, who is player-manager of the Tyrone club, insists he has no regrets about spurning the chance to score.
“I did what I thought was the honest and right thing to do,” he told the Belfast Telegraph. I always look at it from the other point of view — if the decision had been given against us, how would I have felt?”
With 14 minutes gone and the game tied at 0-0, Gavin Taggart caught the ball to stop play after colleague Chris Rodgers suffered a blow to his head.
The referee harshly awarded a penalty for hand ball — angering Ballymena’s players and staff.
But despite his side desperately needing three points to avoid relegation, Murphy sportingly rolled the resulting penalty straight to the goalkeeper, allowing play to restart and the game to stay scoreless.
Ballymena eventually won after goals from Alan Teggart, Gary McCutcheon, James Costello and Jamie Davidson.
Yet sport was the real winner, thanks to Murphy’s remarkable gesture.
“It is up to the referee to stop the play and put the ball out,” he added. “The young lad (Taggart) was maybe a bit naive, but he was doing what he was told. Whatever the reason, I didn’t think it was right to score the penalty.”
It may yet prove costly, with the Swifts under pressure to win games to avoid relegation from the Premiership. But Murphy has no regrets about his decision.
“Yes, we are fighting for survival, but there comes a time when you have to put your morals first,” he said.
And Ballymena’s goalkeeper Dwayne Nelson — who previously played for Dungannon — was stunned by the gesture. “Darren came over and said he was going to roll the ball back to me — I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “In over 10 years playing football I have never seen anything like that.”