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Ovation at funeral for ex-Glenavon star Tony Scappaticci

By Allan Preston

Mouners at the funeral for tragic Glenavon footballer Tony Scappaticci offered a standing ovation yesterday as his young daughter Sofia gave a scripture reading for her popular father.

A picture of Mr Scappaticci - or 'Scappi' as he was known to friends - was placed beside a blue and white shirt from his footballing days in front of around 400 mourners at St Therese Church in Banbridge.

The father of three was a crucial part of the Lurgan Blues side who lifted the Irish Cup in 1992.

He died suddenly on Monday.

The seventh of nine siblings, he is survived by his children Stefan, Enrico, Sofia and partner Michelina.

Mourners yesterday included Glenavon chairman Adrian Teer, team manager Gary Hamilton and goalkeeper Jonny Tuffey.

During the service, Mr Scappaticci's sister Maria said: "Tony touched our hearts and we celebrate the joy his life has given to each and everyone".

Parish priest Canon Liam Stevenson said his sporting career brought him many joyful occasions - including one day playing against a World Cup winner - but also struggles with alcohol. He said the sudden death had shocked the community.

"No one had the opportunity to say goodbye, death came quickly and very suddenly," he said. "Tony struggled with an alcohol addiction for many years, but there were years he experienced healing from this disease. Particularly through the help of Alcoholics Anonymous.

"He also experienced healing through his faith, which galvanised his willpower to be sober.

"In his recent past he attended daily Mass here to pray for strength to help him battle this disease. Unfortunately he succumbed to the very strong temptation and lapsed once again into alcohol dependency."

He added the death of Mr Scappaticci's first girlfriend during his teenage years "placed a huge burden on his young shoulders". "To counterbalance those tears there were also many times of laughter" during his footballing career as a left back with Banbridge Town, Glenavon, Bangor and Newry," he said.

"He was particularly proud to have played in a testimonial at White Hart Lane in the company of a World Cup winner, he was really playing in exalted company."

The match in question was a benefit for the Northern Ireland and Tottenham star Danny Blanchflower on May 5, 1990.

Mr Scappaticci was part of a Northern Ireland side picked to take on an all-star Spurs line up.

They included Gary Lineker, Paul Gascoigne and the revered Argentinian Ossie Ardiles, who won the 1978 World Cup.

Canon Stevenson said that as a pupil of St Patrick's College in Banbridge he excelled at sports and "had the great talent of being an extrovert, making friends very easily indeed".

He concluded: "Many people at this Requiem Mass today are grieving the loss of a father, a brother and a friend."

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