Gareth Farrelly reflects on heroic Everton contribution during 1997-98 season
By Alan Myers
Last Updated: 23/03/19 7:35pm
It was one of the most significant goals in Everton's history, preventing relegation after over 40 years in the top flight of English football.
The 1-1 draw at home to Coventry back in 1998 preserved Everton's place in the Premier League after a bitterly disappointing season in Howard Kendall's third spell at the club.
The Everton goalscorer that day was the then-22-year-old Gareth Farrelly, and 21 years later the former midfielder is now a lawyer at Liverpool solicitors Bermans.
It has been a long road to get where he is now, which began following a serious illness that only came to light while he was driving on the motorway in Warwickshire.
"It's 11 years ago now but it was a life-changing incident for me," Farrelly said.
"I was driving down the motorway when I had to pull over with severe pains in my stomach - before I knew it I was rushed into Warwick hospital with an aneurism. Thanks to the wonderful NHS I came through a very serious situation."
That incident effectively signalled the end of his football career and it was then that the Irishman looked to a new direction within the legal profession.
"I went to university and gained a law degree," he said. "It was a big commitment, six years, but it's something I really enjoy and was interested in when I was still playing."
Looking back at that Sunday afternoon at Goodison Park in 1998, Farrelly admits it was sometime later that the significance of that goal really struck him.
"As a boyhood Evertonian it was a special moment for me," he said.
"A lot happened on that day and it wasn't really until later on that the magnitude of what went on became apparent. The glory of that day is that it's never happened again since and probably never will.
"There was a lot of fan frustration and a lot of things going on at the club at that time. But I think Everton is a club where - unlike many - all the negativity was taken away on the day and everybody came together to support the cause, which was fundamentally what happened. And thankfully it ended well.
"We stayed on the Wirral in a hotel the night before and I remember the bus journey in to the stadium was incredible. There were people on the streets everywhere and the ground was full way before it would normally be.
"It was a strange day, Everton women's team had won the cup, the youth team had won their league and both were being applauded on the pitch before kick-off. It was a surreal atmosphere all round."
Farrelly's spectacular 30-yard strike earned the point which meant Bolton - a team he would subsequently join - and not Everton were relegated. And that was despite a Dion Dublin equaliser and a missed Nick Barmby penalty, which increased the tension no end on the day.
"It was one of the most incredible atmospheres I've ever experienced in the game, and to get the outcome that we did made it an unbelievable experience albeit for the wrong reasons," he said.
The former Ireland international works closely with a number of current players in his new career but he will always hold a place in Everton folklore, something he was able to share with his young son recently.
"When my son was eight I took him to Goodison Park for the first time.
"We were watching the pre-match entertainment and that goal came up on the big screen. It's not something I often talk about but it was a strange moment as I started to see it through his eyes and get a better understanding of how today's supporters think of it."