TO STATE that Derry City Football Club had experienced a rollercoaster of emotions over the past 72 hours would be something of an understatement!
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
Former winger, James McClean, received a surprise call-up for the Republic of Ireland on Monday; Derry City was dumped out of the Europa League on Tuesday and Brandywell Stadium got the nod for what’s expected to be a £7 million renovation on Wednesday, a sequence of events which has certainly set tongues wagging this week.
But it was the shock news on Wednesday that Derry City Council appeared to be well on the way to securing vital grant aid from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) which emerged the main talking point.
Indeed, for club chairman, Mr. Philip O’Doherty, the “bolt out of the blue” presented him with what he described as “a pleasant surprise.”
Having been inundated with requests for interviews from journalists - north and south of the border - Mr. O’Doherty has gone out of his way to point out that “nothing had been signed or sealed” on the possibility of funding.
“Nothing has been signed or sealed at this stage,” he said. “But following the surprise news, I have to state that I’m absolutely delighted and while I was aware of what had been going on in the background, I certainly didn’t expect such news until later this year,” he claimed.
He extended his congratulations to Derry City Council who sought the aid for the local stadium, suggesting that the powers that be in the local Guildhall had moved ahead of the posse having already got their business case well underway.
“The Council has been working hard on this project and having already appointed consultants, I understand that their business case is almost completed with project drawings and costings already in place,” continued the Brandywell chairman.
“The grant aid is to tackle what I believe are major health and safety issues at the Brandywell and provide a new stand on the Lone Moor Road side of the ground, incorporating dressing rooms, corporate facilities and, of course, seated accommodation for between 3,000 and 4,000 spectators.
“In addition, the current pavilion in the Showgrounds would be redeveloped to include changing rooms for those pitches and office accommodation,” he added.
Mr. O’Doherty felt that grant aid in the region of £7 million would be required to cover the renovation and he also admitted that the main stakeholders - Derry City, the Brandywell Greyhound Racing Company and the Derry & District Football Association - had all been contacted by the Consultants to answer questions relating to their needs etc.
“The timing of the announcement has been spot on as far as we are concerned. The Council have hit the ground running and while the project must be both technically and commercially viable, the business case must be approved by DCAL if it is to reach fruition.”
Describing the news as “music to my ears,” Mr. O’Doherty felt confident that Brandywell Stadium would soon get the go-ahead for the refurbishment, with the renovations bringing the stadium up to modern day standards.
“As far as I’m aware, I believe Derry City Council will now request a meeting with the Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, Ms. Carál Ní Chuilín and the Irish Football Association and I think it’s very important that Derry City Football Club be invited to join that delegation.
“Every time this funding had been mentioned in the past, Derry City Football Club seems to be prominently mentioned and I think it’s important that we have representatives there to answer any questions posed,” maintained the chairman.
And Mr. O’Doherty also pointed to his amusement when constantly questioned by journalists suggesting that it was Derry City Football Club who would be receiving the grant aid.
“I was surprised that I’ve had to educate so many reporters that it was not Derry City Football Club, but Derry City Council who had sought the grant aid. It’s the Council who made the application as the Council owns Brandywell Stadium, not the club. Yet some of the journalists doing the interviews didn’t seem to take that on board,” he declared.
“Hopefully everything will go through and we will witness the changes sooner rather than later. Everyone realises that the stadium is in a poor state of repair and the health and safety issues associated with the venue must be rectified sooner rather than later,” he concluded.