Belfast Telegraph

Tributes to Gary Donaghy who lost cancer battle led by pal Gerry Armstrong

By Allan Preston

Northern Ireland football legend Gerry Armstrong has paid tribute to a close friend of 30 years who died in Singapore after a long battle with cancer.

Gary Donaghy, from Dundonald, passed away aged 53 on Wednesday. He is survived by his wife, Susan, and daughter Tori.

Mr Armstrong said his friend was a passionate Northern Ireland supporter and a "very good centre half" who had once played at Irish league level.

Mr Donaghy moved to Singapore with his family, and worked in deliveries at an airport.

"I would just want people to know what a fantastic person he was, a really lovely guy," said Mr Armstrong. "I really hoped he would come through his illness. I'm really upset for his family."

The football legend, who played for Northern Ireland in the 1982 World Cup, said that over the past 12 years he and his wife would often spend time with their friend during trips to Singapore. "The last time I saw him was 2014, when I was out there to do world cup coverage," he added.

"His daughter, Tori, would have babysat for us, so we could all go out." Calling his death a "big shock", Mr Armstrong also told how his friend had tried multiple treatments after his diagnosis four years ago.

"He was very positive, he did everything he could," he said. "It's awful... it's all the good guys who are taken. The medical team in Singapore were excellent. He went on a caveman diet and that seemed to help and give him extra time. He also went to Malaysia and Indonesia for different treatments and, for a while, it seemed to work.

"As a father, he did everything that he could to be around for his family."

Despite being so far from Northern Ireland, Mr Donaghy never lost his love for his home team.

"He just loved watching football and the Northern Ireland team," Mr Armstrong recalled.

"He was very proud of what they achieved in the last couple of years, especially in Euro 2016."

Although they had not seen each other for three years, the two friends kept in touch, with Mr Armstrong often sending him pictures from football matches.

"I remember watching football with him in Singapore," he said. "We joked about who was good and who wasn't, but we always agreed on Northern Ireland and wanting the team to do well."

Mr Donaghy's family said a memorial would be held in Belfast at a later date.

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