Football family pulls together to help Derry City hero Mark Farren

Battling cancer on and off for several years now but played on through much of that

It might feel more than a little dysfunctional at times but the Irish "football family" managed a rare moment of clarity over the past week with strands of the game that, as it was once suggested, would rather nick each other's balls than work together, uniting in support of stricken Derry City striker Mark Farren.

A week after a fund was launched to pay for treatment abroad for the 33 year-old, its initial target of €30,000 has been comfortably exceeded but the campaign continues with events or collections planned at various games tonight and over the weeks ahead.

Farren has been battling cancer on and off for several years now but played on through much of that time, establishing himself as the Brandywell club’s all-time leading scorer along the way and averaging comfortably more than a goal every other game for Glenavon in the Irish League even last season before ill health finally forced him to hang up his boots just over 12 months ago.

Last month, a recurrence of his illness necessitated a third bout of brain surgery and while almost all of the tumour was removed, Farren, in particular his speech, has been affected but not cured by the procedure with the cancer now said to be highly aggressive and requiring treatment not available in Britain or Ireland if his prognosis is to be significantly improved.

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Initially the intention was to go to Germany but now a trip to Mexico in three weeks is planned after which he and his wife Terri Louise will return home to concentrate his recovery safe in the knowledge that they have not had to sell everything they own just to get that far.

They were, she says, in a "dark place" last month and Farren was reluctant to seek outside help. "We were looking to see could we sell the car," she says, "could we sell the house but (as it turned out) the people of Donegal. people in Scotland, we've had people in Australia doing things. Absolutely everybody has come together and it's shown just how well respected Mark is."

As of yesterday, the online total collected stood at €44,035 from just over 1,000 donors and this does not include a substantial additional amount given in other ways with one collection around a number of Donegal pubs yielding several thousand euro.

James McClean, Conor Sammon and Seamus Coleman are amongst the better known players to have helped and there are reports that Wayne Rooney has told Darron Gibson he'd like to chip in but Airtricity League clubs and, in particular, their supporters have been the backbone of the effort, showing an admirable willingness to look after one of their own.

"Mark was a very intelligent player and a hard working player," says City boss Peter Hutton. "He knew where the net was. There are great memories of him scoring against St Pats in the 2006 FAI Cup final, the winning goal at Monaghan United that got Derry promoted into the Premier Division...and the goal against Finn Harps that kept us up.

“So he scored some very important goals for the club and he certainly added one or two chapters to Derry City’s history. It’s great to see the response that we’ve had in this tragic circumstance, I think it shows the esteem that Mark is held in, not just by the football community but the community at large.

“Please god, he gets the treatment that is required and that it is successful; he has a long road ahead of him in recovery.”

In the midst of all this, Farren and his wife are still getting over the loss of triplets only last year but in a moving interview with BBC Radio Foyle yesterday she said that they had only grown stronger as a couple through all their difficulties and they are thankful now for the opportunity to continue to his battle free from the financial burden it might have entailed.

“To try and thank everybody individually would be virtually impossible. We just appreciate absolutely everything; to say that we can go in three weeks time and not worry about the cost of things or how we are going to finance it, it’s just the biggest emotional rollercoaster we’ve ever been through.

“From the bottom of our hearts, we are most grateful people you’ll ever come across because without that support we wouldn’t be here at all.”

Donations to the fund can be made here.

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Industry and Employment Correspondent at The Irish Times