Artie Duffy calls it a day after 30 years covering Derry City

Arthur Duffy pictured at the Parc des Princes ahead of Derry City's Europa League qualifier against Paris St Germain in 2006.
Arthur Duffy pictured at the Parc des Princes ahead of Derry City's Europa League qualifier against Paris St Germain in 2006.

ARTHUR DUFFY is a name that’s synonymous with Derry City Football Club and the ‘Derry Journal’ having been both the Sports Editor and News Editor during the course of his 42 years dedicated service to the local newspaper.

During those four decades of distinguished service, Artie has worked his way up the ladder from his first role as an apprentice compositor in 1977 and made the steady progression from news journalist, sports journalist, sports editor in the early 1990s to become the face of the ‘Journal’ itself as the newspaper’s editor for the past five years of an illustrious career.

The indomitable Duffy will, this Friday afternoon, vacate the editor’s chair and end his long-standing association with this newspaper having decided it was time for a change after recent, dramatic changes within the industry.

The 59-years-old Bogside native proved the perfect scribe to chronicle the Brandywell club’s many twists and turns since he was a general reporter at the Buncrana Road offices in 1988. He is now considered one of the ‘old guard’ in local media circles after a long career in sports journalism which has seen him cover some of the biggest stories in the history of Derry City with his own unmistakable style.

He wrote with authority and his match reports and ‘occasional’ columns were a must-read for any Derry City supporter.

Artie honed his reputation ‘as the man on the ground’ when it came to Derry City and he had been a prominent member of the club’s programme committee for almost two decades. An ‘old school’ reporter, he has been a permanent fixture in the Brandywell Stadium Press Box from the days of the old, dilapidated Glentoran Stand through to the plush surroundings of the Mark Farren Stand.

It’s remarkable to think he’s documented the highs and lows at Derry City, through the ‘Troubles’ and that historic ‘treble’ winning 1988-89 season; the title winning 1996-97 campaign; the financial problems which almost put the club out of business in 2000; the glamour friendlies against Celtic, Barcelona, Man United; the five FAI Cup wins and the memorable 2006 European run which culminated in a trip to the Parc des Princes where Derry met Paris St Germain and which saw the Candy Stripes go so close to reaching the group stages of the Europa League.

Artie broke the story when then City captain, Peter Hutton and the squad walked out of the club after claiming their wages hadn’t been paid and was at the forefront as stories emerged in relation to ‘dual contracts’ and when the club was expelled from the league of Ireland by the FAI in November, 2009, for breaching the Participation Agreement. He’s been part of the fabric of the club and has played an integral role in helping promote it as one of the top football clubs in the country.

Technology-enabled social media has altered the traditional sense of sports journalism and it’s been difficult to embrace for many of the ‘old school hacks’ who still long for the days of notepad and pencil; exclusive stories and travelling on the team coach to away games. But it was that very grounding which gave him the edge when it came to reporting on the Lone Moor Road club as he built trusting relationships and contacts with the club’s players, staff and board members alike.

Those technological advances haven’t exactly been welcomed by many of Artie’s generation of journalists and he felt it was time to walk away into the sunset, leaving behind many colourful stories and plenty more tales never to be disclosed.

Perhaps we may see a new book on the shelves of our local bookstores in the coming months or years?

As the Journal’s Sports Editor , Artie was the man charged with covering the fortunes of Derry City when my interest in sports journalism was stirred in 2007. While I don’t like to remind him, I owe Mr Duffy a small debt of gratitude for giving me a chance to work at the ‘Journal’ and covering the ‘Candy Stripes’ both home and away when he opted to hand over the baton.

On a personal level, I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with him for the past 12 years and to call it an education would be an understatement. As an editor he was never a diplomat but always fair and I’ve learned much under his stewardship, although I’m also careful not to massage his ego any more than necessary.

As a trainee journalist I remember sending him some of my articles and would squirm as I stood behind him while he caressed his moustache and furrowed his brow, scrutinising every word.

And he was always happy to have an audience as he let you know exactly where you went wrong or where you could improve your story. It was certainly an abrupt introduction to the profession for me, but an effective way to learn your trade and it worked!

For any aspiring, young journalist entering the newsroom, you first learned respect under Artie. Larger than life at times, you would hear him before you would see him, but when you managed to scrape beneath that tough exterior, he was a pleasure to work under and an excellent mentor and confidant.

The ‘Journal’ newsroom has undergone a wave of change over recent years with the departure of some terrific reporters and big reputations and characters, but it certainly won’t be the same with the absence of Mr Duffy who has been a mainstay throughout.

It’s a new era for us right around the country but the shift towards the digital age will take no bigger casualty than Artie who has played a significant part in journalism in Derry.

The true measure of the man can be gauged by his staff retirement party in the Bishop’s Gate Hotel last Friday night after 42 years service and it was clear that he is hugely respected by his journalistic colleagues.

While his office will be empty next Monday morning, he’s left his own legacy at the newspaper and despite his earlier than anticipated retirement, he has no intentions of cutting his ties with Derry City Football Club and will, no doubt, be writing match reports for some time to come. He’ll also have no excuse now for reducing his golf handicap as he can spend a little more time on the fairways at Lisfannon.

Artie was a journalist who was always fair and never wavered from the belief that he was doing his job on behalf of ‘Journal’ readers. It’s a difficult trick to pull off when his club loyalties ran so deep, but he managed it and the world of journalism and the dance floor at the Christmas party, will be a far poorer place without him.