Councils across Northern Ireland have been encouraged to do their bit to tackle ovarian cancer by lacing up for charity.
Ovarian cancer survivors and battlers, leading medics and charity fundraisers turned out for the inaugural MEA United match at Ballymena Showgrounds.
And following the overwhelming success of the event involving councillors and staff from across Mid and East Antrim, other local government bodies have been invited to follow in their footsteps.
The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Paul Reid, said: “Our first MEA United was remarkable. It was fantastic to see so many people from all backgrounds, ages and abilities come together through sport to promote awareness of the so-called ‘silent killer’.
“Among those who came along were the Ovarian Ladies – a group of inspirational, brave and loving women. We are so grateful to them for sharing their experiences of this cruel condition and shining a light on the journey they are on.”
The ‘MEA United - Tackling Ovarian Cancer Together’ showpiece also included community representatives. Former Northern Ireland player Michael Hughes played for both teams throughout the match, with Irish League football pundit Liam Beckett commentator and host on the night.
The fundraiser was endorsed by the borough’s three largest football clubs, Ballymena United, Larne Football Club and Carrick Rangers.
And the Inver Park side teamed up with international property giants Purplebricks to sponsor the game. Tesco, Stirling Trophies and Diamond’s Newsagent also backed the initative. Organisers thanked the Northern Trust for their support and attendance at the event.
The cash injection from donations taken on the night will go directly to Cancer Focus Northern Ireland.
The Deputy Mayor, Cllr Cheryl Johnston and Cllr Timothy Gaston, who organised the MEA United game, said their vision was for Northern Ireland’s other 10 local authorities to take part next year.
Winning captain, Cllr Johnston, said: “This was the first year of MEA United and we couldn’t be more proud of all of those who took part.
“We know all of the money raised from the game will be going to a vital cause and I hope the awareness from the event can help to save more lives in Mid and East Antrim and across Northern Ireland.”
Cllr Gaston said: “A huge thank you to everybody for supporting MEA United.
“It would be superb if our council colleagues throughout Northern Ireland joined us in future to tackle ovarian cancer together.”
Anne Donaghy, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council chief executive, said: “My family’s world fell apart when my sister Geraldine lost her life to ovarian cancer last year, aged just 45.
“I want to pass on my sincere gratitude to our elected members and staff for organising such a great event, which was a wonderful tribute to Geraldine and all of those who have been victims of ovarian cancer.
“If this match creates enough awareness to save one life then it has been a fantastic success.”
Dr Declan Quinn, Consultant Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Northern Trust, said: “For too long this has been known as ‘the silent killer’ and we need to get more people talking and recognising what to look out for.
“Outcomes are always better the earlier we can detect cancer and the more help we can get to do that will improve results and save lives.”
Northern Ireland international captain Steven Davis MBE and Liverpool Football Club sent the players their best wishes ahead of the encounter.
The Cullybackey-born Premier League star said: “It’s great that Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and Northern Trust are tackling ovarian cancer together and highlighting ovarian cancer through this game.”