THE shocking drop in Derry City’s support this season appears to have sent alarm bells ringing around the Brandywell club over recent weeks.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
And while one can understand that a five match losing league run does little to whet the appetite, this Sunday’s FAI Cup semi-final against Shelbourne is basically a make or break game as far as this season is concerned.
Victory, and Declan Devine will lead the “Candy Stripes” to what could prove to be a season-saving game at the Aviva Stadium in the FAI Cup Final; defeat and Derry’s first season under the former goalkeeper’s guidance will be condemned as a significant failure.
With that in mind, Derry City Director, Tony O’Doherty, a former player and manager at the Brandywell, not to mention a senior N. Ireland international defender, has his worries as the current campaign under Devine’s watch draws to a close.
But the Creggan man was adamant that if the team was to secure a trip to the Aviva Stadium next month, then a large Brandywell support must get in behind these local players during this Sunday’s decider.
“Obviously the finance a large gate would generate would be significant, but the importance of winning this game is even more significant, as far as this club is concerned,” said O’Doherty this week.
“Yes, we’ve experienced, a major fall-off in our support at the Brandywell this season. Some put it down to the recessionary times we live in, others to the fact that we have not been successful and that our league challenged petered out as we entered the final quarter of the campaign.
“I think both reasons are true, but as any football fan would tell you, this game is all about success.
“A winning team is normally well supported and while I would be the first to point to the injury crisis which has hit the club - an horrendous run of long term injuries - we’ve now reached the stage where the vast majority of those players are back to fitness.
“And those players, in particular, are anxious to play their part in claiming some measure of success from a campaign which threatened to be really positive when the season kicked-off back in March.
“Make or Break
Openly agreeing that Sunday’s Shelbourne game was a “make or break” fixture, O’Doherty made a public appeal to supporters to turn up at the Brandywell this Sunday and get behind the players who would be representing the local club.
“As a former player, I have always been aware of the importance of that 12th man on the terraces,” he said.
“Players, be they young or old, respond to vociferous support emanating from the terraces, so the 12th man is vitally important and when one considers the fact that Sunday’s game is a cup semi-final to be played on home soil, then that 12th man takes on even more significance.
“Whether we support Derry City or not, I think the vast majority of people would like to see the club progress to a major final before the current season draws to a close.
“After all, Derry City fans appreciate finals. When getting behind the club they’ve travelled through Europe back in 2006 and, indeed, supported the team in the FAI Cup final of that year when we defeated St. Pat’s in the final at Lansdowne Road.
“So, on behalf of everyone associated with this football club, I would make a strong appeal for loyalty and support and urge as many people as possible to support us in the Brandywell this Sunday.
“And when in the Brandywell, please let your voices be heard as this is one of the biggest games we have been involved in over recent seasons. We have developed a strong locally base side.
“The club continues to harvest players from our youth ranks and that has been staggering this season.
“Unheard of youngsters such as Barry McNamee, Ryan Curran, Michael Duffy, Michael Barr, Caoimhinn Bonner have all began to make the breakthrough joining the likes of Shane and Patrick McEleney, Stephen McLaughlin, David McDaid and others who are continuing the develop in the first team squad,” claimed O’Doherty.
“It really is an exciting time for everyone at the club, but so much depends on a winning performance on Sunday.
“And as a football person, I am appealing to everyone to give the team a chance, get behind the players and, fingers crossed, end the 2012 campaign with what could prove a memorable visit to the Aviva Stadium in the Dublin next month.”