Fra McCaffrey: “My father is a nice man and did not deserve this”
As we get older we learn how difficult life can be.
in the midst of laughter and happiness, there can be sadness and trauma.
Every day is a blessing, but your world can be turned upside down in an instant.
We all live with the fear of that phone call or knocking on the door with distressing news.
When the phone rang in the early hours of a Saturday morning in January, the concern of Warrenpoint Town captain Fra McCaffrey quickly escalated into panic.
The man who gave him his love of football – his father Fra – suffered serious facial injuries when a rubbish bin full of stones was thrown from an overpass onto his windshield.
The West Belfast truck driver (57) was on his way to the Royal Mail office in Larne after returning to heavy truck driving to help with the pandemic effort and despite having surgery on his eye to remove the glass, doctors were unable to restore sight to his right eye. A shocked and injured Fra managed to drive the truck onto the emergency lane to clear the pavement at high speed – potentially saving lives.
It is difficult to understand who would have planned such a random attack, but Fra and her family had to face the dire consequences.
“It was a big shock when it happened and it still hurts,” said Town Fra midfielder.
âHe plays a bit of 5-a-side football and trains for the back at the gym. He’s fine in the sense that he’s running to get on with his life, but you can tell he’s not the same anymore. He is blind in one eye and it is still difficult to understand everything.
âHe’s always depressed when he thinks about what happened. He wants the closure and to know who did it and why. He sold a van that he used as a taxi and things like that upset him. But he goes on with his life and does all he can.
âI was lying in my bed on Saturday morning when we were to play Dungannon.
âMy sister Megan called me and when she said ‘daddy had an accident’ I automatically thought of the worst, fearing he was dead.
âMegan said he had lost a lot of blood and we couldn’t see him in the hospital due to the Covid-19 situation.
âIt was difficult for Megan and my mother (Deirdre) in the hospital because neither of us knew what was going on.
âTime passed and I waited for news without knowing what was going on. We all ended up in mum’s house and luckily I had access to the hospital and dad could talk but was in great pain. I asked him if he wanted me to play the game and he told me to go score a goal but the game was called off due to the weather. It was a difficult few days, the operation was canceled and we had only limited information. “
Fra’s father goes on with his life as best he can. The best one can while bearing the physical and mental scars of what happened that terrible night.
Police say their investigation is closed and there is a real chance the culprits will not be arrested.
“He is allowed to drive again and can train, run, he is blind in his right eye and has scars on his face, plaque on his cheek and nose, scars from operation and he may need more, “added the 28-year-old. .
âOther than that he’s in good health but there is a mental side to the injury which is huge.
âHe has to come to terms with this, he’s a strong man and won’t show weakness, but it must be hard to live with the consequences of someone doing such a horrible thing to a man who was just doing a decent night job.
“I’m angry and sad because you’re wondering why someone would do this?”
âIt was no coincidence that a trash can full of bricks fell from a bridge. Someone has come out to hurt someone and words cannot describe the emotions you are feeling.
“He’s one of the nicest men you could ever meet and he didn’t deserve this.” It has been a difficult time for the family as my grandmother passed away last year and my mother Deirdre was also in the hospital at the same time as my father. He’s relieved he’s still with us, but he never should have lost an eye.
Fra, who lives in Finaghy and is a classroom assistant at Holy Evangelists Elementary School in Twinbrook, has fond memories of seeing her father show off his athletic talent.
âI remember watching my dad play when I was a kid,â he says. âHe played Gaelic and football for a few local teams. I loved to get out of the house, kick a ball and watch it.
âI played for the Celtic Boys until I was 14 when I joined Linfield for two years. After that I went to Hull City until I was 20. I played for the Linfield Swifts where David Jeffrey and Bryan McLoughlin were in charge of the first team.
âI played well in the Milk Cup and the Foyle Cup. Stefan Seaton, a scout, was watching me and I was able to stand trial in front of Hull who wanted me to sign.
âI spent three and a half seasons there. I was 16 when I first went there and loved it.
âOnce I got to know the family I was staying with, my teammates and my coaches, it helped me settle in, but I was a shy kid. One of the guys on the youth squad, Danny Wilkinson, died a few years ago from a heart attack on the pitch in England.
âI played a few reserve games with current Leeds captain Liam Cooper and Conor Townsend who is now left-back at West Brom and Tom Cairney, now at Fulham.
âI lived with Dougie Wilson in Hull. Paul McElroy was on the same youth team and my Point teammate Kealan Dillon. “
But Hull City’s dream did not last. Like many young players from Northern Ireland, Fra returned home and rose to the challenge of resurrecting his career.
âSteve Bruce set me free and I was devastated,â he recalls. “You think there is a chance to be a professional footballer and then it’s gone. I ended up with a knee injury after that and had to go through rehabilitation. The season was over and I was got home.I went to Dundalk and my mindset was to take on another challenge at home.
âOnly a small percentage of our players will be successful in the game full time, so if you go to a young age it can be difficult.
âGuys like Gavin Whyte and Stuart Dallas played men’s football from a young age and it helped their development. You are more turned on for what is expected. Whenever I was younger, I trained and worked hard. My brother and dad asked me to do more training, but I always thought I had done enough, but I could have worked harder.
“It might not have worked, but I could have given myself better luck.”
Fra’s career has been disrupted by injuries, but Glentoran’s Irish Cup victory in 2015 was memorable, for both football and family reasons.
âWinning the Irish Cup with Glentoran in 2015 was special,â he says. âI couldn’t attend church for my brother Daniel’s wedding that day and I was the best man too!
âMy family stayed by my side, there was a bit of conflict at first but I was told I was doing the right thing and Eddie (Patterson) didn’t start me!
âWinning the League Cup with Ballymena United was also brilliant.
âBut I also had bad times during those times, with injuries and less while playing.
âI am now based in Warrenpoint and my last few years have been the best because I played and enjoyed.
âThe club wants to improve and I want to be part of it. It’s a different kind of pressure from big teams but nice.
âEveryone involved in the club are good people, volunteers who give everything and ask for nothing. We would love to end this disappointing losing streak in the league and start moving up the ranks. “
Anyone with information regarding Fra McCaffrey’s attack should contact Larne Police.