Derry City film to be screened nationwide on BBC

‘If you know your history’ was a famous chant at the Brandywell when Derry City returned to senior football in 1985 and the current generation of Candy Stripes supporters get the chance to find out all about that history on BBC television later this month.

Thursday, 8th April 2021, 7:01 pm
Terry Harkin, Eamonn McLaughlin, Tony O'Doherty and Eddie Mahon, the famous ‘Gang of Four’ at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium. Picture courtesy Stephen Latimer

Guy King’s documentary film ‘Different League: The Derry City Story’, will be shown on BBC 1 Northern Ireland and nationwide on BBC 2 on Monday, April 19th at 9pm and the four men who played a major role in bringing senior football back to the city believe the film will be a fascinating watch.

Terry Harkin, Eddie Mahon, Eamonn McLaughlin and Tony O’Doherty all feature in the film and believe football fans up and down the country will be stunned at what they had to do in terms of getting their hometown club back playing senior football.

“Having no senior football in Derry for over a decade, Terry came up with the idea for us to try and join the League of Ireland,” conceded Eamonn.

“At first we thought he was crazy and secondly we thought it would be impossible, but we decided to go for it anyway. Our first plan was for myself, Terry, Tony and Eddie to all meet and discuss how to approach the idea, as we weren’t affiliated to any association.

“As Derry City were the only affiliated senior club in the city, we had to have a number of meetings with their directors about our plan, these were difficult at times, as some of the board members weren’t overly happy with our proposals, however we came to an agreement with Derry City that we would amalgamate with them and be called Derry City Football Club.

“Now that we were affiliated to the Irish Football Association (IFA), so once the ball was rolling so to speak, we as a group contacted League of Ireland clubs, who we had all previously played for to hopefully get their support on us joining the Football Association of Ireland (FAI). After getting some signs of encouragement we contacted UEFA, as we were outside the jurisdiction of the FAI.

“After numerous toing and froing with UEFA we finally got the go ahead to apply for membership for the FAI for the 1984/85 season.”

For Harkin, who at the time was manager of Tylers Shoe Shop on Ferryquay Street, was the main man behind the idea and he was thrilled to see the Brandywell packed to the rafters for the opening game against Home Farm, on Sunday, September 8th, 1985.

“We weren’t sure what sort of attendance we were going to get and we were absolutely blown away with the crowd that attended, that opening day,” he insisted.

“It was a proud day for myself and the rest of the guys that after months of hard work, we had finally achieved our goal and brought senior football back in Derry.

“Now for the current crop of Derry fans to see what it was like back then is fantastic and I myself can’t wait to see the film.”

For Eddie Mahon he’s looking forward to the next generation of Derry supporters getting a glimpse on how things were back then.

“People have to understand that there were no mobile phones, emails or social media in those days, so contacting UEFA sometimes was via post and we had to wait weeks for any type of replies,” he stated.

“But look, we got there and I’m delighted that we were able to get into the League of Ireland, because we haven’t looked back and supporters hopefully in this film will see and appreciate the hard work everyone put in to get us back playing senior football.

“I’m always very disappointed and annoyed when I see Derry men playing for other teams in the League of Ireland because I know how hard we worked behind the scenes to get football back so maybe even players who are playing away from Derry will see this film and want to come back to be a part of their home town club. It’s crazy to think it’s over 30 years ago now, as I can remember all those telephone calls and letters going back and forth to UEFA, as if it was just yesterday, in fact I have some letters in the house from UEFA.”

Tony O’Doherty, who is part of the current club’s board, like Mahon can remember that hectic time in the mid-80’s.

“People have to remember I played in our first game back in 1985 against Home Farm, it really was a great day,” he explained. “I remember prior to arriving at the ground I was nervous like Terry, Eamonn and Eddie at how many fans would come, then when I went out for the warm-up I couldn’t believe it and I knew standing before kick-off when I was taking it all in for a few seconds that everything was worth it and I had to do my best to make sure that we won the match, which as everyone knows now we did, but it really was a great day not just for the club but for the whole city.

“It really was a special time for everyone at the club and throughout the city and I think the film will capture that and show all football fans up and down the country, that our generation right through to today’s generation, how special it was to be playing for Derry City.

“We had thousands of fans travelling up and down Ireland throughout the late 80’s and I think Derry City fans going into pubs and restaurants up and down the country gave the south an economy boost similar to the Celtic Tiger,” he joked.