Sean Ward was Glenavon’s hero in Tuesday night’s dramatic 2-1 extra-time BetMcLean League Cup victory against Dergview. The veteran defender scored two fabulous long-range goals in the closing minutes of extra-time to turn a seemingly inevitable 1-0 defeat into a memorable 2-1 victory.

“I am 40 in January. The boys should not be putting me in a position in which I have to do something like that,” he said, with a cheeky smile. “But being serious, they were important goals and, in the end, got us through the tie.”

Sean’s first came from a corner on the right. “We had some joy on that side of the pitch without maybe producing enough quality deliveries into the box,” he continued. “When the pass came to me, I had a go. Fortunately, I made a good connection and the ball ended up in the net.”

His second was a left foot effort struck from the edge of the penalty area. “This time, with the ball at my feet, I decided to turn inside. When I did that, the space opened up, and I decided to hit it again. Sometimes they go in and sometimes they don’t. This one, thankfully, hit the back of the net.”

Contrary to popular belief, these were not Sean’s first and second goals in a Glenavon jersey. In March 2021 he scored in a 4-1 defeat against Portadown at Shamrock Park.

Ward’s dramatic intervention snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. “We had lots of possession, played some neat football but lacked an end product. In fact, Dergview could have scored on a couple of occasions before they eventually went in front. Rory [Brown] made one very good save during extra-time. But we managed to turn the game round and in a cup tie that is all that matters.”

Now he is looking forward to the second round of the League Cup. “It is a competition we have struggled in since I joined the club,” he continued. “I don’t know why that has been the case. But it is nice to be in the hat for the next round.”

On Tuesday night Sean played in the middle of defence. Last Saturday he started the Premiership fixture against Larne as a full back. Does he have a preference? “I like to play in the centre,” he added. “That has always been my favourite role. Also, at my age, it is a bit easier. But the managers I have played under at Linfield, Glentoran, Crusaders and here at Glenavon have often asked me to play wide. I have always played where I have been needed. That continues to be the position.”

What are the challenges of playing Irish Premiership football at 39 years of age? “It is not easy,” he admitted. “It means big sacrifices. Recovery after games is a lot tougher. Injuries are, at times, an issue. Plus, being honest, I have not been at my best. That has been frustrating. But I enjoy playing football so much that I put up with the down sides and get on with it. This may be my last season, so I want to keep going and continue to help the team.”

Sean is, of course, the nephew of Gerry Clarke, a fans’ favourite at Mourneview Park during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Gerry was famous for his versatility. He played centre-half, centre-forward and all positions in between. He now lives in Australia. “I was talking to Gerard on Saturday night,” added Sean. “We facetime each other regularly. He really enjoyed his time at the club and still loves to talk about it.”

Finally, Sean reports that he is adapting well to life under new Glenavon manager Stephen McDonnell. “I played with Gary [Hamilton] at Glentoran and he was the reason that I agreed to come to Mourneview Park,” he adds. “He was a great player and a great manager for this club. Nothing will ever tarnish his achievements. But there is a new man in charge now. Stephen is so positive and speaks so well to the players. He has lots of new ideas. We are all enjoying getting to know him and are doing our best to play in the way he wants us to. Hopefully, we can turn things around and start to win games of football regularly again.”

The BetMcLean League Cup 2nd Round draw will take place at 3 pm on Thursday 5th October 2023. It will be broadcast live on the NIFL YouTube channel. Second Round ties will be played on Tuesday 7th November 2023.

Sean Ward.