Thousands of Derry City supporters used trains, planes and automobiles to reach the Aviva Stadium last weekend - Derry City’s travelling support could be heard everywhere.
It’s inevitable that people who had not attended a single home match all season would want to jump on the FAI Cup bandwagon - that’s just the way sport is and there is very little that anyone can do about that. Be that as it may, the atmosphere and good feeling amongst Derry people this week was, as I am sure most will agree, amazing.
It was reminiscent of the first few years of the Hallowe’en festival in 1980s or the time the Candy Stripes won the treble in 1989 - it was a feeling exclusive to Derry people and Derry City supporters but it shouldn’t stop at a welcoming home reception in the Guildhall Square on a cold Monday night.
There is short-term elation with every piece of silverware won but the real achievement is using it to power momentum and change things for the better at the Brandywell.
If Derry City Football Club could harness even just half of the support inside the Aviva Stadium last Sunday and have them at the Brandywell for every single home game next season, the fortunes of the club would surely improve.
Derry City have so many factors working against it. The fact that Derry is located so far north and miles away from Dublin limits the number of players that managers like Declan Devine have been able to attract.
There’s virtually nothing that can be done about the club’s location - it’s just something that we as supporters have to live with but Derry City Football Club have something that so many clubs in Ireland would give anything for - brilliant supporters.
Derry City fans are so passionate about their football club. They are like no other breed of supporter that I have ever encountered.
Perhaps it’s to do with the hard times the club has been through that fans refuse to take it for granted and worship it as some sort of sacred oracle.
Whilst Derry City supporters are amongst the most vociferous in Ireland it would be nice if the club had more.
One of Derry’s final league games of the season was against Dundalk F.C. on a Tuesday night.
It was cold and wet outside but still, the attendance was awful and one of the players told me a few days later that he’d noticed it.
It can’t all be one way traffic. The players did the job on the field last Sunday but the supporters have to do the job off the field. It’s as simple as this, more Derry City supporters are needed at the Brandywell.
If Derry City fans, both old and new, want to experience more days like last Sunday then there has to be trade off.
I am sure that if the Brandywell was to be packed out for every home match it would make a difference to the on field exploits of the team.
Not only would the players on the pitch benefit from the extra support but financially, it would mean that for managers like Devine they would have a bigger pot of money with which they could use to attract new players.
The factors working against clubs like Derry City are more considerable than the ones working in their favour but days like last Sunday should make all of the difference.
The obvious sense of occasion and the glitz and glamour of a final in the nation’s capital will attract more people but hopefully after last week’s experience some may be convinced to give Friday nights at the Brandywell a go next season.
Declan Devine said after Sunday’s cup glory that he thought that Derry City was back where it belongs. I agreed with Devine in the sense that the club was back last Sunday but unless the crowds at the Brandywell increase all of what has been achieved this season will be for nothing in the long term.
There was so much to shout about last week. A man from Creggan, Declan Devine, led the club to their first piece of FAI Cup glory in six years; there was local lads playing in every position on the pitch. The goals may have come from a Scot and a man from Strabane but the way in which the Candy Stripes won the game was every bit as Derry as Free Derry Corner, the Guildhall Square or a cup of tea with The Derry Journal.
Every Derry City fan was keen to have their photograph taken at last weekend’s match. The sandwiches were packed, the beers were chilled and off they set down the M1 to Dublin. A great day ensued but it shouldn’t stop there.
If last Sunday was your first Derry City match for a while or indeed, ever, then don’t make it your last. Get behind Derry City next season, go along to the Brandywell on Friday nights and then maybe the club will not have wait another six years before they are involved in another cup final in Dublin.