Friday 30 September 2016

Exclusive: 'We were blown away by Philly and Dubs fans', says 'Batman' Ben's mum

Ryan Nugent

Published 02/09/2016 | 07:11

Ben and his mum Valerie Picture: Damien Eagers
Ben and his mum Valerie Picture: Damien Eagers
Dublin's Philly McMahon, left, and Bernard Brogan after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final game between Dublin and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Herald page one
Dublin supporters during a minutes applause for the late 'Batman' Ben Farrell during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Dublin and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin
Ben at his first Dublin match

The mother of tragic 'Batman' Ben Farrell has told how she was blown away by the tribute from GAA fans at Croke Park and from Dublin star Philly McMahon to her late son.

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At the fifth minute of Sunday's All-Ireland semi-final, supporters of both Dublin and Kerry burst into a minute's applause to remember the life of 'Batman' Ben (5) who gained his nickname through his love of superheroes.

There was another minute's applause before Ireland's friendly with Oman on Wednesday night and little Ben's face was shown on screen as the footballers took to the pitch.

Brave Ben, from Finglas, died two weeks ago after a long battle with kidney cancer.

Dublin's Philly McMahon, left, and Bernard Brogan after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final game between Dublin and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Dublin's Philly McMahon, left, and Bernard Brogan after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final game between Dublin and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

In a bid to raise funds for his treatment in the US, the young boy gained the support of Dublin GAA players and in particular, Philly McMahon.

After Dublin's win, McMahon tweeted a picture of himself in the Croke Park dressing room wearing a batman t-shirt and wrote: "'The little batman was watching over us!"

Herald page one
Herald page one

Speaking to the Herald, Valerie - who was at the game with Ben's dad Alan and his brother Jack - said of the minute's applause: "It blew us away, it was very emotional, to think that it was for my baby, it really blew us away.

"It was a recognition of his life, his five years, his love of life and I suppose some sort of recognition of maybe what he's gone through, but more so recognition that he lived and enjoyed life," Valerie said.

Dublin supporters during a minutes applause for the late 'Batman' Ben Farrell during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Dublin and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin
Dublin supporters during a minutes applause for the late 'Batman' Ben Farrell during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Dublin and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin

Regarding Philly's tribute to her son, the mother said the footballer "just exudes class".

"He wasn't gaining anything from that, but he's just pure class," she said.

Ben at his first Dublin match
Ben at his first Dublin match

"The Dublin lads met Ben at a training session before we went to America and they gave him a lot of time, especially Philly.

"Philly almost scored in the fifth minute and it would have been lovely to see him get that goal. I said, 'there was no way Ben was going to let that happen and steal his limelight'," she added.

Valerie said it was difficult seeing all the other children at Croke Park on Sunday, knowing her son should have been there too.

Ben would go to games with his dad and never missed a match.

"We didn't have to do it [go to the game], but we needed to and wanted to for Ben," Valerie added.

Smile

Despite the obvious connection 'Batman' Ben had with Dubliners and Dublin GAA supporters, Valerie said it was clear the whole of Ireland was behind their fight - an outpouring of support she admits was at times difficult to comprehend.

"It must have been his smile," she explained. "It certainly feels like the whole nation was behind him.

"From our cocoon here in the house, we're not out much but we just feel like everybody seems to have warmed to Ben and he touched people far and wide and we're a bit in awe of how that happened," she said.

"We don't really know why he captured so many hearts and I shouldn't really be in awe, because I know Ben and what he can do. He has a smile that would win everybody over."

The family have received overwhelming support since Ben passed away, but there are tough days - particularly for his younger brother, Jack.

"Jack is lost without his big brother, he followed him around everywhere - he can't possibly have any understanding of what has happened," Valerie said.

"The day after Ben's funeral, Jack was looking to open one of Ben's unopened toys and I got down on my knees and said to him, 'do you think your brother would like you to open this?' and he just looked at me, held his hands up and said 'gone'.

"That alone breaks you, because that's his perception of what happened, his brother is gone.

"Now you don't want to get out of bed, where you don't want to continue, where you think there's no more and when we saw the Herald front page on Monday, it just made us smile and we thought: 'Ben's at it again'.

"He loved being famous as such and he wasn't going to stop until he got his front page, was he?" she added.

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