The captain of Derry City Football Club has expressed “great sadness” that the playing career of his team-mate and close friend Mark Farren may be cut tragically short due to illness.
Candystripes skipper Kevin Deery said the club's title-winning celebrations at the weekend were a bittersweet affair as it marked possibly the last game in a Derry City shirt for star striker Farren (28), who has hung his boots up indefinitely to battle a brain tumour.
“I feel really sad for Mark,” Deery told the Belfast Telegraph.
“I've played alongside him for seven years and he's a genuinely nice, quiet fella.
“He's such a gifted footballer, and the thought that his career could be over at the age of 28 is just really sad.”
And, in what Deery labelled a “fitting” conclusion to the season, Farren scored the winner against Monaghan United that clinched the Airtricity League First Division title on Saturday.
Although the win heralded a welcome return to the Premier Division next season for the Brandywell club, celebrations were tinged with sadness as the players were acutely aware that the match may well have been Greencastle man Farren's |swansong.
“After the game all our thoughts immediately turned to Mark and everything we did for the rest of the night was to show our appreciation to him,” said Deery.
“We sang songs about him and let him know in every way we could how special he's been and what he has meant to this club.”
Farren was diagnosed with a low-grade tumour last year and while he heroically played on through this season, he has now been advised to stop in the interests of his health.
The striker has expressed a heartfelt wish, however, to don the red and white jersey in the future — and it's a sentiment his captain echoed.
“You can never say never,” said Deery.
“And I know how much it would mean to him to get playing again.
“But, no matter what happens, his contribution to Derry City will never be forgotten.
“Mark scored a lot of really important goals for this club and his boots will be very hard to fill.”