Mark Farren: A special player and a courageous man
Mark Farren wasn't an ordinary player - he was a special player and his brave battle with cancer proved he was a special man.
So special in fact that Derry City will retire the No.18 jersey as a tribute to the club's all-time leading goalscorer following his tragic death.
A fitting tribute to a remarkable footballer and man.
The volume and sincerity of the heartfelt tributes that continue to flow following his passing on Tuesday night underline just how much Mark was loved and respected by the football family that rallied behind him.
Mark was a ruthless finisher, particularly in the red and white colours of City where he earned legendary status, but when serious illness struck his bravery and courage came to the surface.
It was Christmas 2008 when he first received the devastating news that a brain tumour was to take his life in a frightening new direction but the Donegal man was humble throughout his heartbreaking journey right to the end.
There was an outpouring of sorrow yesterday with the common cry of how unjust and cruel it was for such a popular and respected man to lose his life at the age of 33.
Mark was an entertainer and a goalscorer who frightened defenders but made people smile.
He is the Brandywell club's all-time record goalscorer, an achievement that is all the more impressive given that he reached his final tally of 114 goals in 2012 after coming out of the early retirement caused by his first battle with the illness.
Despite his health issues, Mark was able to cross Liam Coyle's magic total of 112, a stunning achievement.
Irish League fans would also come to love and respect the 2005 PFAI Player of the Year.
His affection for football continued in the colours of Glenavon. An emotional farewell to the game arrived in 2014 when it became clear he would need more medical treatment.
Football fans across Ireland and further afield dug deep for their hero, raising the funds that enabled him to receive specialist care in Mexico last summer but his brave journey ended yesterday. Players, team-mates and supporters shared their cherished memories of Mark including his former Lurgan Blues team-mate, William Murphy.
The Linfield legend said: "It was a great honour for me to play with Mark and also against him. When Linfield played Derry in the Setanta Cup he scored a hat-trick and I was supposed to be marking him!
"When I made my debut for Glenavon in a match at Ballymena United we won 6-3 and Mark scored two. To wear the same jersey as him was a special feeling and I had tears in my eyes when I heard the news.
"Life can be so cruel but I was honoured to know such an incredible guy.
"He fought his illness with tremendous courage and went to Mexico to continue that fight."
Another former Mourneview Park team-mate, Linfield striker Guy Bates added: "It was an honour for me to know and play alongside him. Mark was one of Irish football's greats."
Derry City will open a book of condolence at the Brandywell today from 2.15pm and there will be minute's applause in the 18th minute during Derry City's friendly at Ballymena United tomorrow night.
City also paid tribute, saying: "Mark will live on in the hearts and memories of all Derry City fans. Rest in Peace Mark. A great footballer and a truly gentle man."
Mark will be buried tomorrow morning. His remains will leave his home at Mill Glen in Moville at 10.20am for 11am Requiem Mass at St Mary's church in Ballybrack. He will be buried in the adjoining cemetery.
There will also be a minute's applause in tribute to Mark in the 10th minute of Saturday's Irish Cup clash between Glenavon and Glentoran at The Oval.
His wife Terri-Louise, family and friends will be heartbroken but they will be comforted by the fact Mark touched so many lives. Always a legend.