Belfast Telegraph

Grieving husband salutes Dallas for generous gift of tickets to Northern Ireland match

By Allan Preston

A father of two young boys who tragically lost his fiancee two months ago has said a big-hearted gesture from a Northern Ireland football star has "meant the world" to his family.

Jolene O'Hagan (23) from Cookstown passed away suddenly in July after being rushed to hospital suffering from deep vein thrombosis.

Before her death, the devoted mother of Alfie (3) and Theo (2) had been planning her wedding to teenage sweetheart Jonathan Smyth.

After hearing of the heartbreaking loss, Northern Ireland and Leeds United winger Stuart Dallas reached out to the family on Sunday offering free tickets to last night's World Cup qualifier against the Czech Republic in Windsor Park - which Northern Ireland won 2-0.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph before the game, Mr Smyth said his young boys were overjoyed by the thoughtful gift.

"When Jolene passed away two months ago, Stuart, being from Cookstown, had obviously heard about that," he said. "But now he's given Alfie and Theo a massive smile on their faces with this gesture."

He added: "This surprise means the world to us, it's a very nice thing for Stuart to do and it just shows you not all footballers let the money go to their heads.

"The boys can't wait, they love football. I had them at their first ever game at a Rangers match last weekend in Inverness when we were over visiting my uncle. So tonight will be their second game."

Earlier, he posted the original message from Dallas on social media. The message said: "Alright pal. Bit of a random one here but it's something I've thought about a lot since the sad news I heard regarding yourself and the kids not so long ago.

"I know it's short notice and I'm sure the kids have school. I've heard you're a Northern Ireland fan and I've seen pictures of the wee men in Northern Ireland kits.

"I'm not sure if you're going to the game tomorrow night but I would like to offer you and the kids a ticket to go to the game."

He added: "I can't begin to imagine what you are going through, but I've two children myself and I feel if it's only something small that brings smile to their faces then I would love to do that. No worries at all if you can't make it."

Responding, the delighted father had replied: "Stuart Dallas you are an amazing guy. Thank you so much, kids are all excited."

Last month, the 26-year-old winger signed a "no brainer" three year deal with Leeds United, securing him a place at the Elland Road club until the end of the 2019/20 season.

Last night Dallas helped his team mates in securing a confident win over the visitors.

His surprise gift would no doubt have been welcomed by the late Ms O'Hagan, a passionate football fan who chose to be buried in her Manchester United shirt.

In July, her fiance described her in an emotional poem as the "love of his life" and "the best wife-to-be and mummy".

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