Tribute to Mark Haughey - by Jamie Megarry

Posted : 31st May 2021 at 06:58:32

After the news of Mark Haughey’s departure to Glenavon, Jamie Megarry of official Linfield media has put some words and pictures together to try and do justice to a wonderful club servant.

‘Hawks’ made his Linfield debut in the pouring rain against Ballinamallard United on December 14, 2013, putting in a solid performance in a 3-0 win. He signed for David Jeffrey’s Linfield on a two-year deal from Glenavon on April 29, 2013, aged 22 but his debut was delayed because of an injury picked up in pre-season.

He had been signed as part of a major rebuild in 2013 after Linfield finished well adrift of then league winners Cliftonville. Despite being young at 22, Haughey was fairly experienced, having broken through in the Irish League scene at 16. Just four months before signing, he’d been on trial at Bournemouth. It was clear he had a great future ahead and thankfully, it was to be at Windsor Park.

After his solid debut, he retained his place in the team and continued to impress, in wins over Portadown and Glentoran in the Boxing Day derby. It was clear from early on that Linfield had signed a superb defender and a first memorable moment came a few weeks after his debut when he scored his first goal for the Blues in such dramatic circumstances. Linfield were trailing 2-0 away to Warrenpoint Town after 84 minutes, Andy Waterworth pulled one back on 85 and Mark McAllister levelled on 89, before Haughey rose like a salmon to head in the winner in stoppage time to complete a stunning comeback.

It was the first of many and somewhat ironic because the Newry native formed a habit of scoring against Warrenpoint Town. Linfield had started the 2014/15 season with six away games due to the beginning of the redevelopment of Windsor Park and in the first home game back at Windsor with Linfield fans in the North Stand, Haughey scored the only goal of the game and on the day he captained Linfield. To wear the armband – bestowed on him that day by Warren Feeney who’d recently taken over - at 23 having only been at the club a year was a fine achievement and a credit to Haughey’s character and quality.

Then in November of 2014, Linfield travelled to Warrenpoint again and the big defender made it three in three against the Milltown club. Again it was a decisive late winner as he rose at the back post in the 89th minute to head in Michael Carvill’s cross.

In April 2015 came another moment that Haughey will cherish as he rose typically well at a corner kick to head in the winner for Linfield in the ‘Big Two’ derby against Glentoran at the away end packed full of Linfield supporters.

He continued his habit of late winners when he headed in Kirk Millar’s corner in the 85th minute to give Linfield a dramatic 4-3 win over Glenavon in September 2015.

If he hadn’t already endeared himself to the Linfield supporters, February 2016 made sure of it. Firstly, the defender was at the heart of another great comeback with yet another late winner. Coleraine were 2-0 up against Linfield at The Showgorunds after 15 minutes. Aaron Burns pulled one back for Linfield on on 32 minutes. Mark Haughey headed in a leveller on 51 minutes and then on 84 minutes he headed in the winner in front of a packed away end who went wild.

Later that month Haughey showed just how reliable he is. In a home match against Glenavon, Linfield goalkeeper Ross Glendinning received a straight red card in the 57th minute. With only five substitutes allowed on the bench at the time, Linfield hadn’t named a goalkeeper on the bench and so Mark Haughey was brave enough to step forward. Mark was a talented GAA player in his day and it showed, as he remarkably saved a penalty from Kevin Branniff, getting down low to his left to push it away. Linfield were 1-0 up at the time and although Glenavon did equalise late on with a second penalty, it would be fair to say Haughey earned Linfield a point between the sticks that day

Then later that year, history repeated itself. In a truly remarkable game of football which was also ironically against Glenavon, Linfield found themselves down to nine men after fifteen minutes! Matthew Clarke was dismissed for a challenge and then during protests Linfield ‘keeper Roy Carroll was harshly sent off as he also received a straight red. Again, ever-reliable Haughey pulled the gloves on in our hour of need. Glenavon went 2-0 up in the first half but there was nothing Haughey could have done about it. In fact, he was very good again, making a number of saves and catches. On the day Andy Waterworth pulled one back with half an hour to go and then in the closing minutes the unthinkable happened. Haughey booted the ball up to Paul Smyth on the halfway line and he turned superbly, breezing past a Glenavon defender and running in to slam in an equaliser. The away end went absolutely ecstatic but it wouldn’t have been possible without Mr. Reliable in goal

Haughey was desperately unlucky to suffer an injury in the off-season in 2018. 2017-18 was a season to forget for the club, finishing fourth and not winning a trophy but everyone was itching to put it right, including Haughey. Linfield went on to regain the league title in 2018-19 and also won the League Cup but unfortunately, Haughey missed it all through injury. But as the saying goes, every setback is a platform for a greater comeback and with that in mind, December 21, 2019 will live long in Haughey’s memory. The previous week he’d been named in the squad for the first time in 19 months. On this day Linfield had a shaky first half against Crusaders at Windsor Park and the Crues went in a goal ahead at the break but it could have been more. Mark Haughey received full faith from David Healy as he got the call at half-time to come on at right back. A key word throughout this tribute is ‘reliable’ - and that came to fruition again as the defender walked away with the ‘Man of the Match’ award and Linfield battled back for a point. That was Haughey back in the team and back with a bang and no doubt it was a sweet feeling a few weeks later when he got the goal scoring feeling back, against Institute.

Mark Haughey rediscovered his goalscoring touch at just the right time this season. Linfield’s penultimate post-split match at home to Ballymena United was a big one at the time and a real opportunity for the Blues to extend their lead to eleven points at the time, albeit with a game more played than the chasing pack. ‘Hawks’ set Linfield on their way that day with a splendid header. He showed great intelligence to ghost in at the back post and meet a deep cross from Kirk Millar, finding the top corner with a powerful header

It was very fitting for Mark last week to score the goal which sealed the title for Linfield. What a way to bow out! Kirk Millar’s corner was flicked on by Mark Stafford and Haughey powered a low header into the net against Coleraine at the Showgrounds. Linfield knew a point would clinch the title and they got it with a 1-1 draw.

Mark won his first trophy in his first season, in March 2014 when The Blues defeated Crusaders on penalties to win the County Antrim Shield following a goalless draw. However, silverware evaded him otherwise in his first three seasons at Windsor Park, finishing second in the league on each occasion. The defender suffered disappointment in losing the 2016 Irish Cup final to Glenavon, and losing the County Antrim Shield final to Ballymena the same season, but better things were coming and he’d soon get what he wanted

Things were put right in the 2016/17 season as Linfield won a treble. The aforementioned comeback against Glenavon at Mourneview Park was a key moment in that season, not just in terms of gaining an unexpected point against the odds, but also the mental boost that came with it. The Blues hit 13 goals in their next three away matches after that and didn’t lose any away matches the rest of the season. Set-pieces were also a big part in that memorable season and Haughey netted eight times. Also worth mentioning is that it was that season in which Haughey started to also play at right back, with Stafford coming in at centre half beside Callacher. That was a regular line-up at the back for Linfield in the run-in when the Blues went 18 unbeaten to overcome Crusaders’ nine-point lead to win the league. He played right back in both the County Antrim Shield final and the Irish Cup final. Linfield defeated Crusaders 3-1 in the CAS final and he kept Paul Heatley quiet, and similarly, he kept Darren McCauley of Coleraine quiet in a 3-0 Irish Cup final win. Arguably, they were two of the form players in the league at the time.

Haughey also played in this season’s Irish Cup final, of course. He partnered central defender Jimmy Callacher and the pair of them were superb as Linfield won their 44th Irish Cup in a 2-1 win over Larne at Mourneview Park.

In summary, Mark was colossal for Linfield at the back over the full eight years he spent at Windsor Park. You didn’t hear much from him over the years and he did his talking on the pitch. Linfield’s loss is not just a great player but a great man and character too. So reliable and consistent, whether he was playing centre back, right back, or even in goal, Haughey would never let us down. A man who always stepped up when needed, whether it was shifting to right back, putting the gloves on or scoring late winners. After the frustrations of not winning the league or Irish Cup in his first three years, it is fitting that he walks away as a League and Cup double winner and even more so for him to score the league-clinching goal.

Thank you, Hawks. We all wish you every success for the future.

Jamie Megarry
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