Faithful Larne FC fan overjoyed to hold County Antrim Shield
A lifelong Larne FC fan has told how he shed “tears of joy” after kind friends from his local shop arranged a visit of the County Antrim Shield to his home.
It was the club’s first senior silverware success in 33 years and a sign of the transformation of the club in recent years under the stewardship of owner Kenny Bruce.
One man that couldn’t have been more proud of the Inver side is John Hegarty, who was taken as a young boy to his first match at Inver Park by his father.
John - who lives in Craigyhill - has stuck with the club through thick and thin down through the years.
“I’m 61 now and I’ve been a loyal supporter since when I was maybe five or six.
“Even when Larne was down low I kept going; even when they were playing bad, I was there,” he said.
John was a regular face at Inver Park until 2012 when he sustained a foot injury.
With Covid-19 restrictions forcing the Co Antrim Shield final to take place in an empty stadium anyway, John was cheering on Tiernan Lynch’s side from his home.
He was understandably delighted when the Inver outfit emerged victorious after a tense penalty shoot-out.
The icing on the cake for the faithful fan came last week when he heard that the club was kindly allowing his friends in Spar Craigyhill to bring the Shield to his home.
“I never thought I’d ever have my hands on it. I was a bit nervous as it’s a bit heavy,” he said.
“When I was holding the shield I was nearly crying my eyes out. It was tears of joy.
“It was very kind of Ronnie and Peter from the shop to bring it round. They are very good to me and I think a lot of them.”
Ronnie Eynon of Spar Craigyhill explained that John was well known to everyone in the shop.
“We knew that if we were able to let him hold the shield it would really make his day,” he said.
“It wasn’t a bit thing to do on our part, but we hoped it would give John some pleasure.”
John, who has been described as the Inver Park “stats man”, said he would love nothing better than to get back to a home game.
“It would just mean the world to me,” he said.
“When the Larne matches are live on TV I get my red shirt on. It’s not the same as being at Inver Park though.
“I just need to get this foot sorted out - nine years is too long to have to wait for an operation to get it re-set, but I suppose Covid has pushed it back and back.
“It started when I got off the bus one day and my foot went over to the side. It’s been giving me trouble ever since.
“I would just love to get it sorted out so I lead a more normal life,” he said.
Read here how Brighter Futures Fund, supported by Larne Football Club, has teamed up with The Rusa Foundation to launch the ‘Laptops for Larne’ appeal.