Signed for £700,000 from Aston Villa just days after Howard Kendall’s return as Everton manager in June 1997, Farrelly was a highly regarded Irish playmaker who had struggled to make the breakthrough to the Villa first team. On concluding the deal Kendall declared the midfielder had the potential to be a household name, although few Evertonians could have envisaged the dramatic way that this prophesy would unfold.
Thrust into one of the poorest Everton teams in the club’s history, Farrelly struggled to make an impression as his new club lagged towards the relegation places. Perhaps it was unfair to place such a burden on his young shoulders, but he continually looked off-pace, while the execution of his passing and finishing left much to be desired.
That was until the final day of the 1997/98 season. Everton faced Coventry City implanted in the relegation places and relying on Bolton, a single place above them, not to win at Chelsea. Six minutes in Farrelly lofted an aimless ball into the penalty area; Duncan Ferguson’s leap saw it bouncing invitingly back into the path of the Irishman, who struck a right-footed half-volley past Marcus Hedman and in off the goalkeeper’s left-hand post. It was his first league goal for Everton and a wonderful strike. Coventry scored a late equaliser, but Bolton lost to Chelsea. Farrelly’s goal saved Everton from the abyss – just. ‘It was my first goal of the season and it couldn’t have been a better one,’ he said afterwards. ‘I have never scored a more important goal.’
Perhaps surprisingly, Everton’s hero of the hour made just one more fleeting appearance for the club, as a substitute in a League Cup game. He was sold to Bolton – ironically, the club he had condemned a year earlier – in December 1999 for £300,000. After a loan tour of England’s lower leagues, in August 2004 Farrelly became player/manager of FAI side, Bohemians, shortly before his 29th birthday. His time in charge lasted just two years, and he subsequently played for Blackpool and Cork City. Here his career was brought to a tragic conclusion when he was diagnosed with a pancreatic tumour in 2008. In 2010 he returned to football, signing for Unibond Premier League team, Warrington Town.