Glenavon centre-half Mark Haughey has signed a new one-year contract. The 33-year-old has also been awarded a Testimonial. Manager Stephen McDonnell is delighted that the Newry man will be part of next season’s squad.

“Mark is one of the top defenders in the country,” said the Dundalk man. “He is a quality player. We had no hesitation in offering him a new deal.”

McDonnell values his contribution. “He is a very positive influence in the dressing-room. He goes about things in a quiet way, but everyone has great respect for him.

Mark is also pleased to have been given the opportunity to continue his career at Mourneview Park.

“I am happy that the club has decided to retain me,” he said. “I feel that I owe it something because I have missed so much football.

Mark suffered an A.C.L. injury against Larne in December 2022. Following surgery, he spent a year in rehabilitation. Although he returned to the first team in February, progress has been slow.  

“It has been very frustrating,” he admitted. “Glenavon was great in terms of arranging the surgery and all the ancillary aspects. But even after I got myself fit again, I had to take it gradually.

Mark is no stranger to serious injury. He broke his leg as a 21-year-old and a few years later missed a full season with Linfield due to an unrelated knee problem. “They say that injuries are part and parcel of being a footballer, but that doesn’t make it easier,” he said. I hate not being able to play.”

Haughey started his career as a 14-year-old in the Glenavon Academy, made his senior debut during the 2007-08 campaign and joined Linfield in 2013. He won the League Championship four times and the Irish Cup twice at Windsor Park before re-joining Glenavon in the summer of 2021.

When Linfield decided to go full time and it was clear that I would have to leave, I had no hesitation in returning to Mourneview,” he explained. “I was contacted by a number of managers but didn’t have a serious conversation with any of them. The quality of the people at Glenavon is what brought me back. That’s supporters as well as officials. I have always felt valued and appreciated here.”

Although Haughey is grateful to the Board for granting him a Testimonial, his focus in 2024-25 will be squarely on what happens on the pitch. “I am very grateful to the club for recognising the fact that next season will be my tenth in the first-team, twelfth overall, but I won’t allow it to become a distraction. Glenavon needs to win games of football. That is what I will be concentrating on.”

Mark, who now lives in Lisburn, is looking forward to getting a proper pre-season under his belt. “Any player will tell you that when you miss training in June and July, you don’t have a good base of fitness. That has probably hindered me since Christmas. But, if everything goes to plan, I will be in much better shape atthe start of August. Certainly, I got through the full 90 minutes against Carrick Rangers without any adverse reaction. I want to put the last 18 months behind me and start to play regularly again.”

Finally, Mark revealed that he hopes to finish his career with Glenavon. “That is my objective,” he said. “I started at Mourneview Park, and I want to finish there. But first things first. The team must do well next season and I need to make a positive contribution.”