Different League: Derry City show value of class and community spirit amid ‘Super League’ furore

Derry City side which lost to Benfica in the European Cup in 1989.Derry City side which lost to Benfica in the European Cup in 1989.
Derry City side which lost to Benfica in the European Cup in 1989.
Broadcast against a background of the so-called Super League teams deciding to set up their own European league, the Derry City Story showed how the Brandywell club was in a league of its own when it came to uniting a community and overcoming huge obstacles.

The remarkable tale of senior football’s demise when the club was ejected from the Irish League during the early 1970s and its rebirth in the League of Ireland was told on BBC in Different League: the Derry City Story.

The club enjoyed a fairytale return as it rose from its ashes as an Irish League club and went on to win a clean sweep of domestic LoI trophies - a feat that has never been matched - under the guidance of local manager, Jim McLaughlin. And fantasy became reality as it entertained European giants Benfica, under the stewardship of Sven Goran Eriksson, as thousands watched from every vantage point in the ground, cemetery and house roofs nearby.

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The programme also told the remarkable story of how Martin McGuinness, who of course went on to become NI’s deputy First Minister, dealt with a bomb that threatened to stop the home match against the Lisbon giants.

It was an emotional roller coaster for many viewers as they watched captain Terry Kelly lead the team out onto the Brandywell pitch as senior football returned to the city, and later on when a now elderly Jim McLaughlin was reminded of his greatness as he was shown clips of his team’s incredible achievement on an ipad.

As the programme ended, social media began to buzz with compliments and memories.

One of Derry’s most famous sons, Phil Coulter tweeted: “What a brilliant documentary on Derry City. I found it really uplifting and I felt proud of those heroes who fought to bring soccer back to our town, proud of the fans, the players, proud of Jim McLaughlin and most of all proud to be a Derryman.”

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Manufacturing NI CEO, Stephen Kelly, son of Terry Kelly, wrote: “Great job @VinnyCunningham and colleagues. Shed a tear if honest. Proud moment and some great memories.”

Conka McBride, son of the late, great comedian Noel McBride and who has himself captured many of the great Derry City moments on film, tweeted: “Far too many tweets to say about the #DerryCity documentary. Not ashamed to say I cried when my Das old pal Jim McLaughlin spoke, hearing John Dunne’s voice again and a cameo appearance from my late friend Glenn. Superb show.”

Twitter user @J_Rogan1 posted: “Everyone should tune into #derrycity #differentleague on BBC2 right now - it’s an utter delight of a film that exudes warmth from every pore while telling a jaw-dropping story”, adding: “this should be a Hollywood movie - only it wouldn’t be as good!”

And Dublin cartoonist Alan Ryan (@Alotron) summed up the views of many when he tweeted: “That Derry City documentary on BBC was a tonic after today’s Superleague nonsense. Football about people and place.”

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The programme was watched by many former players, including ex England international Luther Blissett, who tweeted: “And what about this 1993 player @derrycityfc! really enjoyed my time with you. Great to see this programme going out this eve.”

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