BY CHRIS MCNULTY
RECORD Derry City goalscorer Mark Farren has revealed how he only became a striker by chance.
The 31-year old, now contracted to Glenavon in the Irish League, is on a break from the game as he battles a serious brain illness. The Greencastle native is undergoing a six-week course of preventative radiotherapy following a routine six-month check-up. Farren was diagnosed with a benign grade 2 brain tumor in December 2008, but battled back to score the goals that saw him overtake Liam Coyle as Derry’s top scorer of all-time.
Farren, once on the books of Finn Harps, says that he only became a striker after offering to fill a void as a front man for Derry’s reserve team.
Paul ‘Oxo’ McLaughlin was the manager and had a lack of options when Farren volunteered.
“I had a go,” he told the Donegal News, “and I scored a hat-trick in three games. At the time the Derry first team was struggling for goals and I came in just before the play-offs.”
Farren netted against Harps in the promotion-relegation play-off in 2003 and is top of the pile at the Brandywell having scored 113 goals for the club.
His new-found prowess meant that he was thrown in at the deep end with City’s first team.
“He said: “Everyone thought, ‘this boy has been a striker all of his life’ and it sort of went on from there.
“It was difficult for me because I played as a left-back until I was 22. I had to learn a new position.
“I was always a more comfortable left-back. I didn’t enjoy playing up front as much. I always wonder if I’d stayed at left-back could I have made it?
“I found it difficult at the start. When I was in England (with Tranmere Rovers and Huddersfield Town) I’d played on the left side. It was tough playing with your back to goal. People watching maybe didn’t know that I was a left-back, my touch was all over the place at times and they’d have been criticising certain things.”
There are two goals that stand out for Farren: His hat-trick goal against Mervue United in September 2012 in an FAI Cup game, a match Derry won 7-1, that saw him leapfrog Coyle to the top of the charts; and the late winner against Monaghan United that sealed the First Division title for Derry in 2010.
He said: “The one in Monaghan was unreal. We had struggled for a couple of weeks and we needed that win. It made it special for me as it was my last game for a while. There was the one that broke the record too. That was special.”
Farren is still in touch with Stephen Kenny, the former Derry manager, who has been a big help as Farren battles his illness.
He said: “Stephen has been a massive support. Even now, he’s managing Dundalk, but he’d call away and be asking how things are going.”
His wife Terri drives him to and from the City Hospital in Belfast every day as he undergoes intensive treatment.
He said: “My family have been great. My wife has just been unbelievable. She’s taken four months off work with no pay. She drives me up and down. Different people would help out. Everyone has been brilliant to be honest.”
Farren was initially permitted to return to the game for a time, but he is uncertain what the future holds. He said: “Now is a wee bit different. It’s a lot more serious now than it ever was. Before now I didn’t realise how serious it could get.”
SEE TODAY’S DONEGAL NEWS FOR FULL INTERVIEW ON HIS BATTLE WITH ILLNESS