THE impressive array of footballing talent which has represented Derry City Football Club since that historic “treble” victory back in 1989, was well represented in Kevin Deery’s Testimonial fixture at the Brandywell on Saturday.
From high profile and long standing performers such as Liam Coyle and Paul Curran to local lads such as Curran’s son, Ryan and another teenage star, Michael Duffy, it was a very interesting mix.
While the Curran connection was nice to note, there were also four sets of bothers on the pitch who have all represented the “Candy Stripes,” from the current McEleney (Shane and Patrick) and McNamee pairings (Barry and Tony), to the Friars bothers (Sean and Emmet) who were also present as was the McCallion clan of Eddie and Thomas.
Included in the attendance were former stars James McClean (Sunderland) and Stephen McLaughlin (Nottingham Forest) while former Celtic favourites Paddy McCourt and Niall McGinn were joined by Burnley defender, Daniel Lafferty, on the pitch.
For Deery, it was a hugely enjoyable occasion and while he was disappointed that the current Derry team failed to rise to their normal level of performance, he extended his sincere thanks to all who had supported the event.
“I’d like to extend my sincere thanks to all those who have supported me, especially the fans who came out to attend the game despite the poor weather and also to the All Stars team who certainly didn’t let me down,” he said.
“And while I felt the game was poor enough, it still was a special occasion for me to walk out onto the pitch in the company of my wife, Jennifer and my two children, who have sacrificed a lot for me during my career.
“I was delighted with the turnout for the game but I always knew the Derry City fans would support me and I thank them for that.
“The All Stars certainly put on a good show with some superb individual performances, but I felt we may have been a wee bit off it having had a week off.
“There were quite a few game changers in the All Stars team – Niall McGinn played well despite the fact that he’s just returned from a holiday. He gave a powerful and strong performance, while Paddy McCourt showed more of his tricks which was great for the crowd.
“Daniel Lafferty also impressed as he overlapped at pace on the left and I think you can see what you needed to be able to do as a player if you are to move onto another level across the Channel.
“For us, we were not as bright and as breezy as we should have been but it’s also worth remembering that this is a testimonial game with nothing at stake and it’s very hard to get motivated for such matches,” he admitted.
Deery also included former boss, Kevin Mahon - who led his home town club to League Cup and FAI Cup successes – in his ‘big day,’ despite the fact that Mahon actually “dropped” the then 17-year-old for the 2002 FAI Cup Final success over Shamrock Rovers!
“Kevin Mahon presented me with my debut at senior level and I felt that he should have a part to play in my testimonial day and he agreed to manage the current squad.
“Obviously Stephen Kenny was the perfect boss for the All Stars as he has managed the vast majority of those players, while I felt Kevin was perfect to manage the current team and I was delighted that he accepted the offer to do that on the day.
“But I still haven’t forgiven him for his decision back in 2002. I actually played in the semi-final win over Cork City and while I felt I did well in that match, Kevin opted to leave me out for the final against Rovers in Tolka Park.
“I was just 17 back then and having watched Liam Coyle scoring the all-important goal in front of a packed attendance, it was a special occasion for us. But I’ve moved on since then and won a few medals since, including a First Division title and a few FAI and League Cup medals.
“We lost out on winning a league title on goal difference back in 2006 that was a hard one for me to take – we lost the ‘treble’ on goal difference that year and that actually still hurts me.
“However, hopefully, I will be able to put that behind me this season as I believe this current crop of Derry City players have what it takes to go on and win a Premier Division title.
“We’re still third or fourth favourites to achieve that, but we will continue to do what we have been doing, taking things one game at a time and see what develops,” concluded Deery.
As the Derry Captain explained, it may have been difficult to rise to the occasion for testimonial fixtures, but it was the All-Stars who made the most of it with Niall McGinn busy in the front line and veteran defender, Peter Hutton, impressing in the heart of defence.
Ciaran Martyn set the tone with the opening strike after just five minutes as the current side took time to settle, but 15 minutes later another City skipper, Eamon Doherty, thundered the ball past Gerard Doherty to double that lead.
On the stroke of half-time McGinn deservedly got his name on the score sheet for his work rate before Stephen O’Flynn made it 4-0 five minutes into the second half.
With the smile on Stephen Kenny’s face in the opposing dugout telling its own story, the current crop appeared stunned and while keeper, Eugene Ferry, certainly took the game seriously with a number of top drawer saves, he was finally beaten in the 89th minute when Mark Griffin netted a consolation strike to spare the home lot’s blushes.
Derry City – G. Doherty; S. McEleney, R. McBride, St. Greacen, D. Jarvis; P. McEleney, R. Higgins, K. Deery, B. McNamee; M. Rafter, R. Patterson. Subs., all used – T. McNamee, M. Griffin, M. Duffy, J. Tracey, R. Curran and J. Coll.
Derry City All Stars – E. Ferry; E. McCallion, P. Hutton, E. Friars, D. Lafferty; P. McCourt, E. Doherty, C. Martyn, T. Stewart; D. McDaid, N. McGinn, Subs., all used – S. O’Flynn, D. McCready, S. Friars, P. Curran, L. Coyle, T. McCallion and G. Beckett.
Referee – Mr. Con McLaughlin (Donegal).