The club, founded in 1928, initially played in the Irish League, the domestic league in Northern Ireland, and won a title in 1964–65. In 1971, security concerns related to unrest in Northern Ireland meant matches could not be played at the Brandywell. The team played "home" fixtures away in Coleraine. Security forces withdrew their objections to the use of the Brandywell the following year, but in the face of insistence from the Irish League that the unsustainable arrangement continue, the club withdrew from the league. After 13 years in junior football, they joined the League of Ireland's new First Division for 1985–86. Derry won the First Division title and achieved promotion to the Premier Division in 1987, and have remained there since. The club went on to win a domestic treble in 1988–89 and the Premier Division again in 1996–97.
Founded in 1928, the club decided against using the official title of the city — Londonderry — in their name, while also deciding against continuing the name of the city's previous main club, Derry Celtic, so as to be more inclusive to all football fans in the city. Derry City were granted entry into the Irish League in 1929 as professionals and were given permission by the Londonderry Corporation to use the municipal Brandywell Stadium. The club's first significant success came in 1935 when they lifted the City Cup. They repeated the feat in 1937, but did not win another major trophy until 1949, when they beat Glentoran to win their first Irish Cup. They won the Irish Cup for a second time in 1954, beating Glentoran again, and for a third time in 1964 — that year also winning the Gold Cup — despite the club's conversion to part-time status after the abolishment of the maximum wage in 1961. This led to the club's first entry into European competition, in the 1964–65 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, in which they were beaten by Steaua Bucharest 5–0 on aggregate. The club won the 1964–65 Irish League and subsequently became the first Irish League team to win a European tie over two legs, beating FK Lyn 8–6 on aggregate in the 1965–66 European Cup. Derry did not complete the next round, as the Irish Football Association (IFA) declared their ground as not up to standard, even though a game had been played there during the previous round. Derry suspected sectarian motives, as they played in a mainly nationalist city and so had come to be supported largely by Catholics. The IFA, Belfast-based, was a cultural focal point of Protestant Northern Ireland and it was widely suspected that it would rather have been represented by a traditionally unionist team. Relations between the club and IFA quickly deteriorated.
There had been no significant history of sectarian difficulties at matches in the first 40 years of the club's history, but in 1969 the Civil Rights campaign against Northern Ireland's government disintegrated into communal violence, ushering in 30 years of the Troubles. Despite the social and political unrest, Derry still managed to perform, reaching the Irish Cup final in 1971, in which they were beaten 3–0 by Distillery. As the republican locality surrounding the Brandywell saw some of the worst violence, numerous unionist-supported clubs were reluctant to play there. The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) ruled the zone unsafe for fixtures and with the use of no other local ground feasible, Derry had to travel to the majority unionist town of Coleraine, over away, to play their "home" games at the Showgrounds. This situation lasted from September 1971 until October 1972 when, faced with dwindling crowds (most Derry fans were unwilling to travel to Coleraine due to the political situation and the longer journey) and dire finances, the club formally requested permission to return to the Brandywell. Despite a new assessment by the security forces concluding that the Brandywell was no longer any more dangerous than any other league ground and a lifting of the security ban, football rivalries were seen as echoing of the wider sectarian nature of Northern Irish society and Derry's proposal fell by one vote at the hands of their fellow Irish League teams. Continuing without a ground was seen as unsustainable and on Friday 13 October 1972 Derry withdrew from the league amidst a perception that they were effectively forced out while a complex of victimisation and marginalisation developed within the nationalist community behind the club.
The club continued as a junior team during the 13-year long "wilderness years", playing in the local Saturday morning league, and sought re-admission to the Irish League. Each time, the club nominated the Brandywell as its chosen home-ground but the Irish League refused re-admission. Suspecting refusal was driven by sectarianism, and believing they would never gain re-admission, Derry turned their attentions elsewhere.
Derry applied to join the reorganised Football League of Ireland (the league in the Republic of Ireland) in 1985 with the Brandywell as their home. The move required special dispensation from the IFA and FIFA, but eventually Derry were admitted to the league's new First Division for 1985, joining as semi-professionals. As their stadium was situated in a staunchly republican area once known as "Free Derry", with a history of scepticism towards the RUC in the local community, Derry received special permission from UEFA to steward their own games. The presence of the RUC was regarded as more likely to provoke trouble than help prevent it. The policy continues today and although effective, has, along with the participation in the Republic's league, confirmed Derry's identity as a nationalist club, alienating many original or potential Protestant supporters.
Derry's first match in the new system was a 3–1 League Cup win over Home Farm of Dublin at the Brandywell on 8 September 1985. The return of senior football to Derry attracted large crowds. Later in the season, after turning professional, they won the League of Ireland First Division Shield with a 6–1 aggregate victory over Longford Town. The following year — 1987 — Derry won the First Division and promotion to the Premier Division, staying there since. The club reached the 1988 FAI Cup final, but lost to Dundalk. The next season — 1988–89 — the club were financially forced to revert to semi-professional status but Jim McLaughlin's side managed to win a treble; the league, the League Cup and the FAI Cup. Qualifying for the 1989–90 European Cup, they met past winners, Benfica, in the First Round.
Since 1989, Derry have won the Premier Division once — in 1996–97 — but have been runners-up on three occasions. They added three more FAI Cups to their tally in 1995, 2002 and 2006 and were runners-up in 1994 and 1997, and won six further League Cups. However, the club has also been beset by financial problems and was on the verge of bankruptcy due to an unpaid tax bill in 2000. An extensive fund-raising effort was undertaken by local celebrities and the city's people to save the club from extinction. Derry played high-profile friendlies against clubs such as Celtic, Manchester United, Barcelona and Real Madrid to raise extra money. This helped keep the club in operation, but difficulties remained and Derry nearly lost their Premier Division place in 2003 when they finished ninth and had to contest a two-legged relegation-promotion play-off with local rivals, Finn Harps of Donegal. However, Derry won the game 2–1 on aggregate after extra-time at the Brandywell and remained in the top-flight, avoiding further damage.
With finances secured, the club became the first in Ireland to be awarded a premier UEFA licence in 2004. Derry re-introduced professional football and their form improved, as they finished second in 2005. Derry's 2005 League Cup victory also saw the club qualify for the cross-border Setanta Cup for the first time in 2006. They entered the 2006–07 UEFA Cup's preliminary rounds, beating IFK Göteborg and Gretna to reach the First Round where they faced Paris Saint-Germain; after a home 0–0 draw they lost 2–0 away. Derry finished second again in 2006, but went on to win the FAI Cup and League Cup double. They qualified for the 2007 Setanta Cup, as well as the preliminary rounds of the 2007–08 UEFA Champions League, and were accepted into the restructured FAI Premier Division for 2007. The club had a disppointing league campaign last season, finishing 7th despite being pre-season favourites. They did manage to win their 8th eircom League Cup, though, thanks to a 1-0 victory over Bohemians at the Brandywell.
Derry City wore claret and blue jerseys with white shorts for their first season — 1929–30. The colours lasted until 1932, when white jersies with black shorts were adopted. This style was replaced by the now-traditional red and white "candystripes" with black shorts in 1934. The style derived from Sheffield United, who wore the pattern and, specifically, Billy Gillespie, a native of nearby Donegal. He played for Sheffield United from 1913 until 1932, captaining them to a 1925 FA Cup win. The club's most capped player with 25 appearances for Ireland, he was held in such high regard in his home country that when he left Sheffield United in 1932 to become Derry's player-manager, they changed their strip within two years in appreciation of his career at Sheffield United.
Derry have worn red and white stripes since, except from 1956 to 1962, when the club's players wore amber and black. Jerseys since 1962 have had "candystripes" of varying thickness. The kit features white socks — originally black socks were used and occasionally red if a clash with the opposition occurred. Similarly, white shorts were adopted for a spell in the early 1970s and for 1985. They are still sometimes worn if a clash occurs, as are black socks. Away jerseys have varied in colour from white, to navy and green stripes, to yellow, to white and light-blue stripes, and to black.
Derry have had various kit suppliers, including Adidas, Avec, Erreà, Fila, Le Coq Sportif, Matchwinner, O'Neills, Spall and currently, O'Neills,. Commercial sponsorship logos to appear on the shirt's front have included Northlands, Warwick Wallpapers, Fruit of the Loom, Smithwick's and AssetCo. Logos to have appeared on the sleeve have included the Trinity Hotel, Tigi Bed Head and Tigi Catwalk. For 2007, the logos of local media, Q102.9 and the Derry News, appear on the back of the shirt just below the neck, along with the logo of Meteor Electrical on the jersey's front.
The club did not sport a crest on the club jersey throughout the Irish League years, nor for most of the first League of Ireland season. Instead, the coat of arms of the city appeared on club memorabilia such as scarves, hats and badges. The symbols on the arms are a skeleton, three-towered castle, red St. George's cross and sword. The sword and cross are devices of the City of London, and along with an Irish harp embedded within the cross, demonstrate the link between the two cities — the city's official name under UK law is Londonderry and the city itself was developed by the Honourable the Irish Society, a livery company of the City of London. The castle is thought to be an old local Norman keep built in 1305 by the de Burca clan. The skeleton is believed to be that of a knight of the same clan who was starved to death in the castle dungeons in 1332. This is accompanied by the Latin motto, "Vita, veritas, victoria", meaning "Life, truth, victory."
In April 1986 the club ran a competition in local schools to design a crest for them. The winning entry was designed by John Devlin, a St. Columb's College student, and was introduced on 5 May 1986 as Derry hosted Nottingham Forest for a friendly. The crest depicted a simplified version of the city's Foyle Bridge, which had opened 18 months previously, the traditional red and white stripes of the jersey bordered by thin black lines, the year in which the club were founded and a football in the centre representing the club as a footballing entity. The name of the club appeared in Impact font.
With the novelty of the Foyle Bridge wearing off over time, the crest lasted until 15 July 1997, when the current one was unveiled at Lansdowne Road with the meeting of Derry City and Celtic during a pre-season friendly tournament. The modern crest also features a centred football, the year of founding and the club's name in a contemporary sans-serif font — Industria Solid. The famous red and white stripes are present along with a red mass of colour filling the left half of the crest, separated from the right by a white stripe. Known cultural landmarks or items associated with the city are absent from the minimalist design. The crests have always been positioned over the heart on the home jerseys.
Derry City's home ground is the municipal Brandywell Stadium, situated just south-west of the Bogside in the Brandywell area of Derry. It is often abbreviated to "the Brandywell" and is also a local greyhound racing venue, with an ovoid track encircling the pitch. The dimensions of the pitch measure 111 by 72 yards. The legal owner is the Derry City Council which lets the ground to the club. Due to health and safety regulations the stadium has a seating capacity of 2,900 for UEFA competitions, although it can accommodate 7,700 on a normal match-day, terraces included. The curved cantilever all-seated "New Stand" was constructed in 1991, while development on the still-insufficient facilities is set to continue with the planned £12 million upgrade to an expandable 8,000 all-seater by 2010.
Plans of Derry City's to purchase a pitch fell through after their formation due to the tight time-scale between their birth in 1928 and the season's beginning in 1929 and so the Londonderry Corporation (now the Derry City Council) was approached for the use of the Brandywell which had been used for football up until the end of the 19th century. They agreed and the club still operate under the constraints of the Honourable the Irish Society charter limitations which declare that the Brandywell must be available for the recreation of the community. In effect, the club do not have private ownership and, thus, cannot develop by their own accord with that discretion or whether to sell being left to the Derry City Council.
Derry City's first game at the Brandywell was a 2–1 loss to Glentoran on 22 August 1929. In 1933, the purchase of Bond’s Field in the Waterside was mentioned, but it was thought to be too far away from the fan-base which had built up on the Cityside, especially in the Brandywell area. They also had first option on Derry Celtic’s old ground, Celtic Park, but hesitated on a final decision and the Gaelic Athletic Association bought it ten years later. They also decided against buying Meenan Park for £1,500.
Because of Northern Ireland's volatile political situation during the Troubles and security fears for Protestants and those of the unionist tradition visiting the mainly nationalist city of Derry, the Brandywell has not always been the home ground of Derry City. In 1970 and 1971, Derry had to play their "home" ties against Linfield at Windsor Park in Belfast — the home-ground of Linfield. From September 1971 until October 1972 Derry were forced to play all their "home" games at the Showgrounds in mainly Protestant Coleraine, over away, as police ruled the republican Brandywell area as too unsafe for visiting unionists. The Brandywell did not see senior football for another 13 years as the Irish Football League upheld a ban on the stadium and Derry decided to leave the league as a result. Only greyhound meetings and junior football were held during this time. Derry's admission to the League of Ireland in 1985 saw a return of senior games.
Derry City FC controversially currently bans the display of national flags at games in the Brandywell. This rule in particular extends to away fans from south of the border who are not permitted to display tricolours with team slogans etc on them as they would at other Eircom League grounds. However, this does not apply to European competition when Derry City FC openly displays the national flag of Ireland as representatives of the Football Association of Ireland.
Derry City have made numerous appearances in popular culture. In the world of music, the club were given exposure by Derry punk band, The Undertones, who had the cover of their 1980 hit single, My Perfect Cousin, feature a Subbuteo figure sporting the colours of Derry City. The song's video saw the group's front-man, Feargal Sharkey, kick and leap to head a ball while wearing the red and white jersey. Similarly, on the cover of their second ever single, Get Over You, the words "Derry City F.C." can be seen.
The club have also featured on popular television. Due to the fact that they are a club based in Northern Ireland playing in the league of the Republic of Ireland they often receive the attention of broadcasters in both jurisdictions. In the BBC documentary series Who Do You Think You Are? shown the night before Derry's clash with Paris St. Germain in the 2006–07 UEFA Cup's First Round, it was highlighted that Archie McLeod, the grandfather of David Tennant, the Doctor Who actor, was a Derry City player. Derry had supplied a lucrative signing-on fee and had enticed him over from Scotland. Likewise, features about the club were run by Football Focus prior to and after the same UEFA Cup game. Irish television has also featured the club. Derry City played in the first League of Ireland match ever to be shown live on television when they visited Tolka Park to play Shelbourne during the 1996–97 season. The game was broadcast on RTÉ's Network 2 and finished 1–1 with Gary Beckett scoring for Derry.
Another medium to play host to the club has been the radio. On 20 April 2005, Derry City featured in an audio documentary The Blues and the Candy Stripes on RTÉ Radio 1's Documentary on One. The documentary was produced in the aftermath of the historic friendly game between Derry and Linfield that took place on 22 February 2005 — the first between the two teams to occur since a game on 25 January 1969 during which Linfield's fans had to be evacuated from the Brandywell by police at half-time due to civil unrest and ugly scenes within the ground. The 2005 match was organised as a kind of security test in the run-up to the likely possibility that both teams, with socially polar fan-bases, would qualify for and be drawn against one another in a near-future Setanta Cup competition.
Current player, Peter Hutton, holds the club record for matches played in League of Ireland football with 573 competitive appearances since the 1990–91 season. Paul Curran has made the second highest number of appearances for the club in the League of Ireland with 518, followed by Sean Hargan with 408 since 1995.
The club's all-time highest goal-scorer is Jimmy Kelly with 363 goals between 1930 and 1951. Since the entry of the club into League of Ireland football, Liam Coyle is Derry's top scorer with 112 goals after 390 competitive appearances for the club between 1988 and 2003. Derry's first ever scorer was Peter Burke at home to Glentoran on 22 August 1929 as the club lost 2–1. Two days later, Sammy Curran had the honour of scoring Derry's first hat-trick, as the club came back from 5–1 down away to Portadown, only to lose 6–5 to a late goal. Barry McCreadie was Derry's first scorer in the League of Ireland as he scored during a 3–1 home win over Home Farm on 8 September 1985. Derry's first hat-trick in the League of Ireland was scored by Kevin Mahon away to Finn Harps on 15 December 1985. Derry's 1000th league goal was scored by Conor Sammon on the 9 May 2008 against Shamrock Rovers. A number of capped internationals have also played for Derry.
Derry's record League of Ireland defeat was to Longford Town in January, 1986 — the score was 5–1. The club's record League of Ireland win was 9–1 against Galway United in October, 1986. The club has never been relegated in either the Irish League or the League of Ireland. Derry are one of only two League of Ireland teams to have completed a treble. Derry's 5–1 away win against Gretna at Fir Park, Motherwell in the 2006–07 UEFA Cup's Second Qualifying Round is the largest away winning margin for any League of Ireland team in European competition. Derry played a record number of 54 games in the whole 2006 season, including all competitions. Previously, the record had been the 49 games played in all competitions during the treble-winning 1988–89 season.
The Brandywell's record attendance in the League of Ireland system is 9,800 people who attended an FAI Cup Second Round tie between Derry and Finn Harps on 23 February 1986. In the Irish League, a crowd of 12,000 attended the 1929–30 season home game against Linfield.
By Irish standards, Derry City have a relatively large and loyal fan-base. The club were considered among the strongest and best-supported teams in the Irish League, and upon the club's entry into the League of Ireland in 1985, crowds of nearly 10,000 attended to the Brandywell for the return of matches. Derry's average home attendance of 3,127 was the highest of any team for the 2006 season. The highest attendance was the last-night-of-the-season meeting between Derry and Cork City at the Brandywell on Friday 17 November when 6,080 watched Derry win 1–0. Domestically, Derry's supporters travel to away games in "bus-loads". They gave large support in the club's 2006 UEFA Cup run — around 3,000 travelled to Motherwell and "maintained a wall of sound" as Derry beat Gretna 5–1 in Fir Park, and over 2,000 went to Paris to see Derry play Paris Saint-Germain in the Parc des Princes. During the home legs, ticketless fans desperate to see the games watched from a distance while standing on the high vantage point overlooking the Brandywell offered by the City Cemetery in Creggan and parked hired double-decker buses outside the stadium to help them see over the ground's perimeter.
The club is known for its community spirit and the supporters have played a pivotal role in the survival and successes of the club. When debts brought Derry close to extinction in the 2000–01 season, the local community responded en masse to help save the club. During the club's successful 2006 season, club captain, Peter Hutton said:
Nobody owns Derry City F.C. apart from the people of Derry. Five or six years ago the club was on its knees, on the verge of going out of business. There was no sugar-daddy, no millionaire, no Roman Abramovich to save the club. It was the people and the city who saved the club. People, fans, ordinary people; they went out and banged on doors to collect money, they went around pubs with collection buckets, they did what they could to keep the club alive. Derry is a close-knit place, a small community, they care about their club and that's why we still have a club. And every bit of success we may get this season is down to them.
Likewise, former Social Democratic and Labour Party leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume MLA MP MEP, who is the club's current president, stated in 1998 of the club's relationship with the community:
Derry City F.C. has been the linchpin in the life of the community in Derry since its foundation in 1928. Throughout the club's history, the Candystripes have provided a sporting outlet for young people and older supporters alike. The history of the club is intertwined with that of its city. It has seen struggle and marginalisation turn to renewal and success. The pride people have in this club reflects the pride we hold in our city. Derry City players and supporters alike are superb ambassadors for the city. Today, the club, like the city, looks to the future with great hope. For all its successes, Derry City would be nothing without the people of the city.
Support for the club is quite dependent on geography and crosses social boundaries. Fans come from both working class areas, such as the Brandywell area and Bogside, and more affluent regions of the city, like Culmore. The Cityside is seen as the traditional base of the club, especially the Brandywell area, although the Waterside is also home to a smaller number of supporters. The club are supported mainly by Derry's nationalist community. The connection is rooted mainly in geography, as well as social, cultural and historical circumstances, as opposed to the club or its fans pushing towards the creation of a certain identity. The club has a small minority of supporters of a Protestant upbringing. The city's Protestant community is largely apathetic, though some unionists and loyalists damn the club as a symbol of Catholicism and nationalism. Joining the Republic of Ireland's league augmented the perception and, on occasion, Protestant hooligans have thrown missiles at Derry's supporter buses as they journeyed to or returned from games across the border. Minor nationalist elements within the Derry City support-base see football as a means of reinforcing sectarian divides.
With the city being a focal point of culture and activity serving the north-west region of Ireland, support stretches beyond the urban border and into the surrounding county; Limavady, Strabane in nearby County Tyrone and areas of bordering County Donegal contain support. The club has numerous supporter clubs, along with ultra fans, and support beyond Ireland — mainly emigrated city natives. Derry City Chat is a discussion website run by fans. Derry's fans share a rivalry with the supporters of Finn Harps and sing the Undertones' Teenage Kicks as a terrace anthem.
Derry City supporters have also created a unique bond with West Belfast Irish League side Donegal Celtic, with supporters from both sides attending games in Derry and Belfast. Both sets of supporters are known to be noisy and colourful.
Supporter site and discussion forum:
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