Conor Keeley says it was an “honour” to captain Ballymena United at the end of an emotional week for him and his family.
Keely’s grandfather Michael Horan, who lived in the Ballyfermot area of Dublin, passed away last week and will be laid to rest this Tuesday.
It has been a difficult few days for the 24-year-old defender who was handed the armband in the absence of club skipper Leroy Millar.
But Keeley stepped into the breach and almost swept home a late equaliser as Ballymena fell to a narrow 1-0 defeat to Linfield at Windsor Park.
Afterwards the towering centre back took to social media to pay tribute to his grandfather and thank the Showgrounds club for its support in recent days.
“Been one of the hardest weeks of my life losing my grandad,” he wrote.
“I just want to say a big thank you to the club for looking after me this week. It was an honour to captain the lads today even though the result didn’t go our way. I know he’s proud looking down.”
Ballymena boss David Jeffrey said he had no hesitation naming Keely, who joined the Warden Street club from Cabinteely 12 months ago, captain for the trip to Windsor.
“Conor is an incredible young man who has given absolutely everything since he has come to the club,” he told the Ballymena United YouTube channel.
“I don’t think Conor will mind me saying this but he has had a difficult week. He lost his grandfather and he and his brother Josh were very much with their grandfather at the end.
“His grandfather, God rest him, would be very proud of the big man today because he was an absolute colossus. I was very proud to make him captain.”
Linfield defeated Ballymena with a first-half striker from Christy Manzinga, a result that edged Healy’s men five points clear at the top.