Cardiff City knock Derry City out of Cup Winners Cup but Candy Stripes lay foundations for historic success
AFTER AN absence of 23 years, Derry City marked a return to the glamour of European football by drawing Welsh Cup champions, Cardiff City in the first round of the Cup Winners’ Cup in September 1988.
It was the beginning of something special for the Candy Stripes who were in the process of laying the foundations of a team which would go on to dominate the League of Ireland and create history the following year.
And while there was no shame in holding the Welsh club to a scoreless draw after an absorbing, bruising Cup Winners’ Cup tie at Brandywell Stadium, their return to European football as a League of Ireland team proved a short-lived affair.
In front of 11,000 supporters at the Foyleside venue, Derry, who had lost to a controversial penalty in the 1988 FAI Cup Final the previous May to double winners Dundalk to earn their place in Europe, emerged with immeasurable credit for the way they performed against such professional opposition.
Indeed, Derry City Football Club, its supporters and the people of Derry were lavished with praise by Cardiff City’s secretary, Mr Eddie Harrigan, and team manager, Frank Burrows, having dictated the play for the opening 20 minutes of the encounter.
“We were given first class treatment from the moment we arrived in Derry and the reception the players received on the pitch - both before and after the game - was fantastic to say the least.
“The exemplary behaviour of the City fans was incredible and I, personally, have never witnessed anything like it.”
After the final whistle Cardiff manager, Burrows sent his players back to the centre of the field to express their appreciation to the Derry fans.
“I sent my players back into the centre circle because in their young lives they will never receive a reception like that ever again, unless of course we draw Derry City again next year.
“Cardiff City players will never get this reception again, should they play for the next 10 to 15 years.”
Derry were in a precarious position financially at the time and the sold-out stands certainly helped fill the club’s coffers with club chairman, Mr. Ian Doherty explaining the future of the club was in the balance before their meeting with the newly promoted English Division Three side.
“Derry City has been reported in the national press for all the right reasons,” he said after the first leg. “The off-field results of Wednesday night last have helped ensure our future participation in the European arena and the city as a whole will be thankful for that fact.”
‘It’s not over yet!’ read the ‘Derry Journal’ headline after the game.
‘Granted Derry were on the rack particularly towards the end of the first half but in such competitive ties a goal scored can often be the tenuous line between glory and defeat. Certainly all is not lost. There was little discernible gap in class.
‘Confidence is growing among the players that they are getting it together and with a bit of luck the fans will get the rewards they deserve for their great support.’
However, that optimism was shattered 45 minutes into the second leg.
Despite an encouraging first leg display, the team still faced a daunting task to progress to the second round on October 5th when they visited Ninian Park and thanks to two glaring goalkeeping errors by Tim Dalton, they fell apart in the second half, losing 4-0 with former Arsenal striker, Jimmy Gilligan famously scoring his first ever hat-trick.
The heavy loss ended a 12 match unbeaten run for Derry in all competitions!
Nevertheless, it was a match which ‘put Derry City on the map’ according to midfielder Paul ‘Storky’ Carlyle who regarded the tie as a missed opportunity.
“Tim dropped two of them into the net over there,” recalled Carlyle. “There was nothing in it and we had missed a couple of chances and then Tim had a couple of clangers.
“At that stage you got the impression they weren’t much better than us. It was our own mistakes which cost us and, fitness-wise, they were that bit ahead of us.
“They probably played together longer as well but we matched them for long periods and it was one of those games where you were disappointed because you should’ve got something better out of it.”
After winning the First Division, Derry underwent a transitional period, losing some of their star names as Owen da Gama returned to South Africa alongside Ray McGuinness while Martin Bayly left for Spain.
And Carlyle, who famously scored the club’s goal against European powerhouses, Benfica, the following year in the European Cup, believes there would have been no doubt that Jim McLaughlin’s treble winners would’ve dispatched Cardiff City.
He came on for Paul Hegarty at half-time but the creative wideman couldn’t break down the Bluebirds’ resolve.
“It was a bit of a transition period at that stage,” he added.
“We were more or less getting used to one another. If you had fast-forwarded it, and had the team which played Benfica the following year, then I’d say we would’ve beaten them.
“Having said that, it sort of put us on the map. A lot of English and Welsh teams would’ve looked at us as a wee Irish team but I think they got a bit of a shock when they realised our capabilities.
“And it was all defensive errors. It wasn’t as if they were cutting us open or tearing us apart.
“We were well in the game, even when we were conceding the goals as we were creating chances. It was maybe a bit of inexperience having not played together that long and not knowing each other’s roles.
“The treble team was completely different in the Benfica game. We had a good understanding which was probably missing in the Cardiff game. We were getting used to one another.
“Maybe the Derry fans drove us on a bit in the first leg but I never needed the crowd to motivate me. If you can’t motivate yourself for a game you’re getting well paid for, the game you love, and you can’t get yourself up to the level, you want to be at something else.
“The first person you examine after you play a match is yourself. You can’t say you need the crowd. Big crowds are great but it shouldn’t affect your game and we were disappointed not to do better in Cardiff.”
The game was well poised in the Welsh capital despite Derry trailing to former Reading boss, Brian McDermott’s 20th minute opener. And then disaster struck for Derry and goalkeeper, Dalton, following a litany of defensive errors.
‘Derry City press self destruct button in Cardiff Euro tie’ was the headline which pretty much summed up the match.
‘Sadly, all pre-match expectations that Derry City were destined for a glorious second round date faded miserably as they were pulverised by a second-half performance of lethal finishing by the Welsh club,” read the Journal report.
‘It’s no unfair criticism that the nature of the defeat was an embarrassment for all those with Derry City loyalties - and even more galling was the fact that many of the wounds were clearly self-inflicted.”
Derry’s return to European competition 23 years after their famous European Cup victory over FK Lyn and their second round hammering at the hands of Anderlecht, came to an abrupt and disappointing end.
Incidentally, Cardiff, who had earned a first return to European competition after an 11 year absence, went on to lose 6-1 on aggregate in the second round against Danish outfit, Aarhus Gymnastikforening but there were brighter days on the horizon for Jim McLaughlin’s Candy Stripes!
Next week Liam Coyle and ‘Storky’ Carlyle take us back to Derry’s famous visit to the Stadium of Light as City returned to the European stage.