It’s all about the weans

By Michael McMullan

THIS Saturday will see Watty Graham Park in Glen just as Francis Lagan would’ve wanted.

The pitches where he played, coached and watched the games he loved will be a magnificent display of fun and colour.

Children will be encouraged to bring their boots, proudly don their own club colours and make new friends through Gaelic Games.

Just under two years ago, Francis was tragically taken in an accident. It shook the Maghera community to its core.

Francis was a pillar of the community in so many ways and the outpouring of sadness towards his wife Louise, their children Rose, Alice, Beth and Frank and the Lagan family said more than words could ever do justice.

In true local community fashion, the offer of a shoulder of support was there.

The array of different school uniforms that mixed with the green and gold of his beloved Glen at his funeral was an indication how far Francis reached out.

He was as proud as punch watching Glen players he coached to minor glory go on to lift the John McLaughlin Cup for the first time in their history just a few weeks before his tragic death.

Saturday’s “all about the weans” family fun event will be a celebration of his short life that had such an impact on so many.

Louise felt it incumbent to build and nurture his legacy and envisioned this day as a fitting tribute to her beloved husband.

She wanted to celebrate Francis’ life in a meaningful way that would involve and benefit the whole community.

With the help of the Lagan family, wonderful friends and a dedicated; hardworking committee, the planning has become a reality. The day, like the man himself, will be mighty, colourful and great fun.

“It was Louise and the Lagan family who came up with the idea to celebrate the memory of Francis and to raise money for the Air Ambulance who were of great assistance on the night he died,” outlined Michael O’Kane on behalf of the organising committee.

There will also be money put aside for a newly set up Francis Lagan Community Legacy Fund that will benefit schools and organisations in the Maghera area.

The name for Saturday’s event, that was the easy bit. It was a common statement Francis would make – it’s all about the weans, his own children, those he taught and coached over the years.

Francis taught in St Mary’s Draperstown before becoming Principal of St Mary’s Gortnahey and later St Mary’s Glenview.

Money from the legacy fund will go to projects that will benefit children of the Maghera and Glen area. It will help playgroups, schools and Glen with any initiatives geared at helping youngsters blossom.

There will also be a special commemorative jersey produced by Padraig McKeever of McKeever Sports, a close friend of Francis.

“Organisations Francis was close to have pledged money towards the fund and they will get their name on the jersey,” O’Kane added.

“Other companies have pledged money and there will be an electric signage on the day, with their logos on it to thank them.”

The day will have something for everyone. Fun runs for all ages; underage games – boys and girls – on the main pitch; another pitch will be packed with various outdoor games and amusements.

There will be stalls serving food, face-painting with local musicians Hannah Ferguson, Tony Kearney and James Bradley belting out the tunes.

A day in the true spirit of everything Francis Lagan represented.

Later in the afternoon, there will be a special exhibition football match, again with a theme close to his heart.

One team will be made up of players from Strawberry Hill University where he studied and Dromantine Summer Camp where he spent many a summer. They’ll take on a Derry select.

Later in the evening, the festivities will move to Glen club where there will be further entertainment with Paul Brady, presentations made and the draw will take place with a host of excellent prizes.

The star prize is a VIP trip for two to Taylor Swift in Dublin next year.

You can also win a Kerry jersey signed by David Clifford, a Derry jersey signed by the 2022 Ulster winning team and a signed Ulster Rugby jersey

There are trips to the All-Ireland hurling and football finals, a Manchester United game and three different luxurious hotel breaks in Ireland.

“The family and the committee would like to recognise the fantastic support from everybody involved in terms of fundraising,” O’Kane added.

“Everyone has been bowled over by the generosity and this is the sort of event Francis would be right in the middle of organising.”

When Francis was Principal in Gortnahey, he organised a huge Gala event to celebrate the school’s anniversary in conjunction with 80 years of the local Drum club.

It’s fitting that an event to celebrate his life is centred at Glen pitch and with the enjoyment of youngsters at its core.

Anyone who knew Francis Lagan will say the same. He had always time for a chat. He treated everyone with both respect and dignity.

His family will feel his loss every day. A giant of family and community.

Saturday is about GAA, It’s about music. It’s about fun. It’s about chat and memories. It’s about community. It’s about family and, as Francis would say, it’s all about the weans.

  • The “All About The Weans” family fun day will take place on Saturday, September 9 at Watty Graham Park, Glen, starting at 10.30am.

Tickets for the raffle can be purchased here…  Closes Friday, September 8 at 11pm

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