Football family unites in support for courageous Mark Farren
Mourneview Park has been the setting for a number of tense football matches this season when Glenavon were surging towards Europa League qualification but last night every player and spectator shared the desire to see Mark Farren emerge as a winner from the biggest battle of his career.
Derry City favourites including Eddie McCallion, Ken Oman, Ruaidhri Higgins, David McDaid and Ciaran Martyn took on a strong Lurgan Blues side last night when the football family united behind one man's fight against cancer.
The sporting community in Lurgan and across the island of Ireland has been saddened by the news that the former Candystripes and Glenavon ace needs specialist cancer treatment. However, funds raised will enable Farren to receive that care in Mexico.
And last night's friendly raised more than £7,000 - pushing the total so far near the £40,000 mark.
The 33-year-old Donegal man underwent a third operation on his brain at the beginning of April but the tumour is highly aggressive.
Mark and his wife Terri-Louise led both of the teams out amid emotional scenes.
Terri-Louise said: "To try and thank everybody individually would be impossible. This is something that we thought we'd have to remortgage our house to be able to do.
"We appreciate absolutely everything. To say that we can go in three weeks and not have to worry about the cost of things is just the biggest emotional rollercoaster we've ever been through."
The game finished 6-3 to the hosts with Declan O'Brien and Andy McGrory netting twice with Kevin Braniff and David Rainey also scoring for Glenavon.
City's goals came from McCallion, McDaid and a Gary Hamilton own goal! Derry City return to action tonight in the Airtricity Premier League when they take on Galway United at the Brandywell (7.45pm). There will be further collections in support of Farren, who is in the thoughts of everyone at the Candystripes including former colleague and current City manager Peter Hutton.
"It's great to see the response that we've had in this tragic circumstance," says Hutton.
"I think it shows the esteem that Mark is held in, not just by the football community but the community at large.
"Mark was a quiet lad and very unassuming as a young player. You would not have known that he was in the dressing room half the time. But when he went on to the pitch he spoke volumes.
"He knew where the net was. There are great memories of him scoring against St Pat's in the 2006 FAI Cup final and the goal at Monaghan that got Derry promoted.
"So he scored some very important goals for the club and he certainly added one or two chapters to Derry City's history."
On tonight's clash with Galway, Hutton said: "We can't be thinking we're in a comfort zone in mid-table. We have to kick on and try and claw back points which we lost in the first series of games. It's imperative that we correct the mistakes we made and improve in the second phase of games."
So far, City have scored just nine goals in 11 games, but Hutton believes his team can ease their woes against United tonight.
"We're at home now and everyone is looking forward to it because it should be a good game," he added. "We need to improve the performances from the last couple of home games."
GLENAVON'S William Walker Memorial supporters club will mark their 50th anniversary tonight with a celebration dinner in Lurgan Legion, joined by special guests Terry Nicholson, former club keeper and manager, and Jimmy Harvey, one of their most gifted players of the '70s before his move to Arsenal.
Harvey was also Northern Ireland assistant manager to Sammy McIlroy.
The Walker club, named after a former player and secretary, have also produced a souvenir booklet (left) of their history.