Mark Farren.
Mark Farren.

Derry City striker Mark Farren has always been aware that he was five goals shy of Liam Coyle’s all-time goal scoring record for the club - a fact that continues to be a great motivating factor


And for Mark Farren, now fully recovered from life-threatening brain surgery, that target remains one of his footballing priorities having been informed my the medical people associated with his condition, that he will play again!

The 28-year-old Greencastle man, who had been diagnosed with a benign grade 2 brain tumour on Christmas Eve, 2008, has made a remarkable recovery following a successfully procedure which was carried out in a Liverpool hospital last December.

In between times, December, 2009, Mark got married and now he not only hopes to lead a full life, but to continue his senior football career is certainly the icing on the cake.

“I attended a consultation with Dr. Cooke in Belfast in March, my first after the operation. And he surprisingly predicted the first question I would ask him,” smiled Mark.

“He actually answered the question before I could ask it. I couldn’t believe it, but it made me the happiest man alive when he confirmed that I would be in a position to play again - but only after six months following the operation,” confirmed Mark.

“He advised, however, that I should wear a ‘skull cap’ - similar to what rugby players wear - which would give me added protection and keep wearing it for at leas a year.

“That consultation was absolutely brilliant and I could hardly contain myself as I’d never given up hope to playing again. After the operation, I started to attend Derry City training sessions on a regular basis, basically to train with the injured players and keep them company.

“I wasn’t involved in practise matches or anything like that. 90 per cent of training involves contact and I had to avoid that, but I was happy to be back involved albeit on limited basis. But returning to training kept me focused. It got me up in the morning and kept me busy. It was very important that I had something to do with my time,” he continued.

Fully contented and happy to be doing all the things he used to do, Mark extended his sincere thanks to all those who had not only prayed for his well-being, but also sent him e-mails, texts and other messages offering support and, indeed, sympathy for his condition.

“Many of those people I don’t really know, but they took time out to offer me their support. Some told me they would be praying for me, others gave me hope and advised me never to give up hope.

“Obviously it was a particularly traumatic time for my wife Terri, my parents and family and Terri’s parents and family but, thank God, we got through it and everyone has turn out really well. So I think it’s very important that I Iet people know that I really appreciated the prayers and support offered to me.”

Considered one of the top hitman in the League of Ireland, Mark has high hopes of a return to action next July and, indeed, he’s keeping his fingers crossed that it will be with his beloved “Candy Stripes” having remained faithful on home match days by viewing the proceedings from the Glentoran Stand.

But while he has made 283 competitive appearances for the “Candy Stripes” to date and netted a total of 107 goals, Farren was quick to point out that the decision to re-join Derry City would be made by others.

That said, he openly agreed that his No. 1 choice was to return to his regular position in the front line and, hopefully, reach Liam Coyle’s target sooner rather than later.

“I’ve learned in life that nothing can be taken for granted. My life has changed dramatically since the operation but my love of football has always remained with me. I’ve always wanted to be a player, I love the sport and have a great interest in it.

“So to be informed by the medical people that I can return to play again has given, not just me but my entire family circle, a significant boost.”

Team boss, Stephen Kenny, has always been kept well informed on Farren’s progress and given that the Dubliner has never failed to be impressed with his top striker’s attitude and application, the return of a fully fit and focused Mark Farren in July would, no doubt, give everyone associated with the club a major lift.

Farren, however, remained hopeful.

“Should I return to Derry City and I’m not suggesting for one moment that I don’t, I have to respect that that will be a decision for both the manager the club’s Board of Directors, but having watched from the sidelines since the season started, I don’t think anyone could have anticipated the progress made by the club this season.

“I’ve been involved since 2003 and while I was delighted to captain the team in my last match, when we defeated Monaghan in Gortakeegan, to guarantee the First Division title and promotion, I can’t believe how well the team has done,” declared the player.

“The progression in the Premier Division has been exceptional. It’s hard to imagine but a team which has just secured promotion from the First Division is now just one point behind the leaders in the Premier Division as the season moves into the second series of matches.

“I don’t think anyone could have predicted that. To be up there challenging is so important for the players and supporters but it will get tougher as the season continues,” he claimed.

“Every other team will want to defeat Derry after such a brilliant start and they will continue to make it very difficult, particularly at the Brandywell. But the players are fully focused and they are taking nothing for granted. I’ve noticed a great spirit on the training ground and the group is obviously anxious to do well this season.”

The future, therefore, for both Farren and Derry City conitnues to look bright and it certainly would not come as a major surprise if the Greencastle man steps back into the breach come July to assist his local club challenging for what would prove a phenomenal achievement by winning back-to-back league titles - a feat which has never been achieved in the past.

Just for the record, the player’s instincts took over a recent training session when, without thinking, he actually rose to firmly head the ball.

“I didn’t think, I just reacted when the ball spun up into the air. Had I thought about it, I probably would not have headed it, but I’m fine and while I’m not looking forward to donning a skull cap, I’ll be very happy if I get the opportunity to take up where I left off,” he concluded.

It’s also interesting to note that his last involvement was producing the strike which confirmed Derry City’s promotion following that 1-0 victory over Monaghan back in November last year.