A POIGNANT tribute to a popular player from Portadown’s golden era was visible this week on the gates of Shamrock Park.
Scarves tied to the club ground’s gates, one with the simple inscription of ‘RIP Davy Mills Legend’, offered moving evidence of how the midfielder was viewed by Ports fans.
The circumstances of David’s death – as a result of head injuries suffered following an assault in the early hours of Sunday in Ballynahinch – have stunned members of the Northern Ireland sporting family.
Mr Mills, a father-of-two who lived in Dundrum, was attacked outside a fast food takeaway after celebrations in a Ballynahinch bar on Sunday with colleagues from Drumaness Cricket Club. He died in hospital.
He is survived by his children Kelly and Ethan, mother Gwen and brother Alan.
Although the 47-year-old’s interests covered cricket, golf and darts, it was for his passion on the football pitch that most will remember David.
And David enjoyed his greatest moments in the colours of Portadown across a nine-year career within Irish League football book-ended by spells with Drumaness Mills.
Mills arrived at Shamrock Park in 1987 and lined out around 150 times for the Ports over seven trophy-laden seasons.
His enthusiasm and reliability proved important during the two finest campaigns in the history of the club as Portadown won a first championship in 1990 then followed that up with the league-and-cup ‘double’ the following season.
The facts reveal a player with 15 goals in around 150 appearances over seven seasons from 1987 but his true value was measured beyond statistics by those cheering from the terraces.
“Others may have played more games for the club but few could ever match the commitment put in by Davy when called on,” said Terence Pentland of the Shamrock Reds Supporters’ Club. “It was a special group of players around those highly-successful days in the early 1990s and Davy was a big character within that squad.
“The fans loved him for his passion and he had a real bond with the supporters.
“Many fans, including myself, have great stories of spending time with Davy and the other players on trips across the border and around Europe.
“He was a special guy who more often than not would come in after games at Shamrock Park and share a few drinks with the fans.
“Davy was just a total gentleman and had time for everyone.
“At the special anniversary dinner in 2011 to celebrate Portadown winning the ‘double’ he sat down at our table and spent ages reminiscing.
“I just want to say ‘thanks for the memories’.”
Social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook have featured numerous tributes from former sporting colleagues and supporters.
A number of tributes to David, including a minute’s silence, are expected tomorrow (Saturday) when Portadown play Ballymena United at Shamrock Park.