Derry City Football Club and its fans are to take to the streets ahead of this Friday night’s game at Brandywell to protest at ongoing violent attacks on visiting supporters.
Club directors will be joined by fans and local residents in a symbolic march from Lecky Road to the Brandywell Stadium prior to the kick-off against Bohemians.
The demonstration, which will leave from outside Mailey’s Bar at 7.15 p.m, follows recent violent incidents outside the football ground in which away fans were targeted by gangs of local young people.
Following the club’s last home tie - a cup clash against Dundalk - a teenage ‘Lilywhites’ fan sustained head injuries and a Dundalk supporters’ bus was vandalised.
It’s not the first time visitors have been attacked outside Brandywell Stadium.
Fans from both Irish League and League of Ireland clubs have been on the receiving end of verbal abuse and physical attacks over the past few years.
However, Derry City FC says it now wants to demonstrate publicly that those behind the violence are unrepresentative of the club and, indeed, the city.
Club director, Tony O’Doherty, says he hopes Friday’s “solidarity march” will show the “true face” of Derry City F.C. and its supporters.
“Visiting supporters the length and breadth of this country and, indeed, further afield, have, over the years, always experienced a warm welcome at Brandywell.
“What happened after the Dundalk game is not typical of the experience away fans get when they come to Brandywell.
“Unfortunately, these are events outside the ground which we can’t control but we still have to find a way of dealing with them.”
Mr. O’Doherty added: “I’m continually meeting true Derry City fans who are telling me that they are sick, sore and tired at the tarnishing of the club’s reputation because of these young people. I can understand that frustration.
“Friday night is an opportunity for them to show the true face of Derry City and its fans - the real alternative to that being portrayed in the media. Crucially, the march is also an effort to show solidarity and support to the people of the Brandywell who have to bear the brunt of all this.”
Mr. O’Doherty says he hopes the march will convince League of Ireland clubs that Derry City FC “is still the same club which, year after year, has been voted as having the best supporters in the land.”
He added: “These young people don’t represent us. I want visiting clubs to know that we’ll look after them and Bohs’ supporters travelling to Friday night’s game are more than welcome to join us on the march. After all, this isn’t just about our club - it’s about the reputation and good name of our city.”
Denis Bradley, another member of the club board, acknowledges that the situation will be “very difficult” to solve.
“It’s absolutely crazy. What we have here is a crowd of young people running about who are completely out of control. We can either lie down and be walked over or else we can try something to work it out. We have to make a stand. Fans, residents and anyone who feels the name of this city is being tarnished by this tiny minority is welcome to come along on Friday and make their presence known.”
It’s understood representatives of local political parties have also been invited to take part in the march.