Derry City title winners to get Mayor's Reception this weekend

Derry City’s 1997 title winners are coming to the city this weekend to mark the 25th anniversary of their success.

By Kevin McLaughlin
Tuesday, 19th April 2022, 7:00 am
Derry City players and fans (left to right) Liam Coyle, Declan Devine, Declan Boyle, John Pio O’Doherty (Life-long supporter), Peter Hutton, Tony O'Dowd, Tom Mohan and Tommy Dunne, celebrate in the changing room after their 1997 title glory.

More than two decades ago on this day - April 19th - they were preparing to face St Patrick’s Athletic on a Brandywell night no one will ever forget and a quarter of a century on title winning manager, Felix Healy, has once again rounded up his troops, this time to honour their achievements.

On Saturday, the Derry players will receive a Mayor’s reception in Guildhall before the squad will reminisce about that campaign by watching old footage in Badger’s Bar.

One man who played a huge role in that title success, which was the Brandywell club’s last Premier Division triumph, was goalkeeper Tony O’Dowd who can’t wait to meet up with his old team-mates.

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“I can’t wait to meet all the boys,” insisted the former City No. 1, “Even speaking to some of the lads through Whatsapp, boys who I haven’t spoken to in years and having a laugh about certain things has been great. I’m really looking forward to meeting them this weekend, it should be good craic.

“I’m picking Tommy Dunne up at the airport, he’s flying in from Finland and James Keddy is also going to be travelling up in our car as well.”

O’Dowd, who made 96 appearances during his three year spell on Foyleside, insists the camaraderie in that squad during the 1996/97 season was second to none and he’s shocked that the club haven’t won the top flight title since.

“The spirit we had in that squad was second to none. To prove that, James (Keddy) is now assistant manager at Longford and they’ve a game next Saturday but he’s going to miss their game for the reunion, that’s the commitment he has and to be honest Jamesy would be afraid something would happen and he’s not there,” he laughed.

Derry City celebrate their League of Ireland Premier Division title success April 19th, 1997.

"Everyone has that same commitment because all the lads were saying that meeting up all together may never happen again, so they doesn’t want to miss it.

“That team was fantastic and the whole season, when you think back on it, where we came from that season before and even for myself, I was out of the team for the first couple of games because Felix had signed Decky (Declan Devine).

“I was out of the team for the first few matches and then lucky enough for me I got back in. It really was an unbelievable season, the sort of experience which doesn’t happen every season.

“It’s quite unbelievable and difficult to believe that Derry haven’t won the league in the 25 years since. For a club of its size, it’s outrageous.”

The Brandywell club’s chairman, Mr. Philip O’Doherty, also confirmed at last week’s fans forum that in May the club will be marking the 25th anniversary with a special evening.