Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill's warm tribute to Derry City legend Mark Farren
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has paid a touching tribute to Derry City legend Mark Farren, who passed away earlier this week.
The football world across Ireland and beyond was shocked and saddened when it was announced that Farren had died at the age of 33 following a long struggle with an aggressive brain tumour.
Donegal man Farren, who scored a record number of goals for Derry before joining Glenavon in 2013, was as popular off the pitch as he was on it.
Last year, Northern Ireland boss O'Neill and Republic of Ireland counterpart Martin O'Neill took charge of Irish League Select and Derry City Select sides respectively in a game at the Brandywell as part of a fundraising drive to send Mark to Mexico for treatment at an elite cancer centre.
O'Neill was proud to do something to help a person and player he admired.
They may have been rivals in the League of Ireland but when Mark was first diagnosed with a brain tumour, Michael, then the Shamrock Rovers manager, wrote the striker a letter of support.
"As a player, Mark was always one to watch. He had a great goalscoring instinct and was a big danger to any team. He had a tremendous attitude and gave his all. He was a big favourite with the Derry City supporters and it was easy to see why," said O'Neill.
"When Mark was first diagnosed I wrote him a letter just to let him know we were thinking about him.
"He came back from that to play again which I thought was incredibly brave and for him to break the Derry goalscoring record was a wonderful achievement.
"It wasn't just as a footballer though that he made a mark. He was a fantastic man as well.
"Last year when I was asked about the fundraising game at the Brandywell, it was a privilege to be involved. I had a lot of time for Mark. As many others have said since the sad news of his passing was announced, he was a gentleman and will be greatly missed.
"My thoughts are with his wife Terri-Louise and his family. This will be a heartbreaking time for them. Hopefully they can take comfort from the fact that Mark was a wonderful man who touched the lives of many, many people."
In Mark's nine-year spell at Derry, he scored 114 goals in 209 games. He finished his career at Glenavon before retiring from the game.
With Mark's funeral today, Derry, who will retire his No.18 shirt, have decided to cancel tonight's friendly with Ballymena United at the Showgrounds.