LOCAL teenager Dale Hanna bravely joined his Laurelhill Community College team-mates for the NI Schools' Cup Final on Wednesday, despite having gone through major surgery recently when his retina detached and he narrowly avoided losing his eye.
16-year-old Dale was desperate to play in the final, the College's second successive final, as the Cup holders' took on St Columb's from Derry at the Ballymena Showgrounds on Wednesday, in spite of the fact that he has lost most of the sight in his left eye.
Whilst the local team were left bitterly disappointed to lose the final 1-0 in a close encounter, Dale's mum Eve spoke of her pride in her son as he gave his all, regardless of his recent surgery.
"I was very proud of him and it was quite emotional for me," said Eve.
Explaining her son's recent plight, she said: "We don't actually know what happened. The doctors think his retina had been detached for some time. We first noticed something was wrong when his sight started going and I took him to the Optician, who called me in and told me it was really serious."
Eve took her son to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast for an emergency appointment on March 23 and the local boy was scheduled for emergency surgery the next day.
Eve explained: "They had to cut open his eye and put a buckle in it to re-attach the retina. It was an hour and a half of hell for me.
"He has lost most of the vision in his eye but it doesn't really bother him because he never had very good sight in that eye so he has always lived like that, the most important thing is that he hasn't lost his eye."
Speaking about her son's desire to play in his school's big final, despite his recent surgery, Eve said: "He was told he could play so he was over the moon. I said to the surgeon, 'I don't want him playing, but it's breaking his heart' and whilst the surgeon said that he technically shouldn't play, he would be fine to play."
The avid football fan, who plays at least three times per week, was thrilled to join his team-mates for the big game.
"He was just delighted to play," said Eve. "Dale played very well
considering he has not trained for weeks. It was nail biting for me watching
him head the ball every time. I could not bear to watch."
Dale's condition is said to be very rare, with a major head trauma usually the reason for a detached retina. The Lisburn boy now sees images in his left eye as if through a steamy window, however, his mum Eve is relieved that he has come through his surgery and is on the mend.
Meanwhile, Dale, who is studying his GCSE's is desperately trying to catch up on his coursework as the wannabe fitness instructor, prepares for his exams.
"He has been working very hard, I am very proud of him," Eve concluded.