IT’S BEEN almost a decade since a group of Derry City greats joined forces to set up a ‘Legends’ team to do their bit for charity and keep alive memories of the Brandywell club’s finest years.
And freshly kitted out in their brand new Candy Stripes jerseys, kindly sponsored by Rent-a-Merc General Manager, Norman McBride, the Derry City ‘All-Stars’ are hoping to continue their outstanding charity work for some time to come.
Since forming to play a group of Derry City supporters as part of Peter Hutton’s Testimonial season in 2009, the Legends team has raised an incredible £200,000 for local charities!
Members of the historic treble winning ‘dream team’ of 1989 including Liam Coyle, Mick Neville, Kevin Brady, Felix Healy, Stuart Gauld, Jack Keay, Paul Hegarty, Paul Carlyle, and Paul Doolin have all turned out to represent the Legends team over the years in various fundraising matches.
Former greats like Jobby Crossan, Tony O’Doherty and Noel King have also lined out for the legends over the past decade, reviving memories of past glories at the Brandywell club.
It’s all for a good cause and legendary striker, Coyle is hoping to keep the team together while adding a few new faces to the squad as they bid to continue the charitable work.
When someone calls you a legend you take it with a pinch of salt. I have to say everyone who has turned out for the last 10 years - every one of them is a legend to me.Liam Coyle
“It’s 10 years since we started this and we’ve helped to raise over £200,000 for local charities by playing matches,” explained the former striker who lifted two league titles with his hometown club.
The team’s old rigs, donated by a former Derry City Board of Directors 10 years ago have seen better days and so a very welcome donation from truck and van hire company, RentaMerc will ensure they look the part when they next take to the field.
“We’d like to thank the Managing Director of RentaMerc who has sponsored us a new rig,” added Coyle. “We got a rig 10 years ago from the then Derry City Board. We’ve been wearing that and getting rigs off Derry now and again but it doesn’t look right because our boys are not what they were 30 years ago.
“Eventually the rigs were no good to us so I asked my boss if he would sponsor us and he stepped in.”
After getting together for the first time in 2009, it was decided they would make it a regular occurrence which culminates in an annual end of season trip to Westport to take on Westport United.
“We started out from Peter Hutton’s Testimonial year. We just decided afterwards as it was great to see all the boys again to keep it going,” he added.
“The first match was against the supporters in the Sports Complex. And then the first real match we had was against Glentoran Legends at the Brandywell.
“We started out and Stuarty Gauld and Felix Healy was playing. Jack Keay, Paul Carlyle played a few matches. We’ve progressed since then, I’m still there, Jack Kaey and Felix play the odd match.
“And we’ve brought in a new young batch and boys who were playing 10 years ago. People like Kevin Deery, Gareth McGlynn, Ciaran Martyn and Paddy McLaughlin. So we’ve carried it on. People like Sean Hargan, Peter Hutton and Gary Beckett will play the odd game. It’s good the boys are still able to turn out and support it.
“Senior football clubs aren’t great at remembering past players,” he added.
“Every team is the same but for us to get everyone involved in it that has played a part in Derry City’s history over the last 33 years it’s really good.
“The fact we’re doing it for charity and everyone is coming out and supporting it I think everyone deserves a great deal of credit, including the likes of Martin Mullan, Charlie Kelpie, Marty Dunne, Noel Moore and Philip Johnston.”
It might be for a charitable cause but the former pros haven’t lost that competitive edge and Coyle is proud of the fact they’ve only lost three times under his watch.
“In 10 years I think we’ve only been beat about three times so it’s very competitive. We don’t like getting beat. The Glens beat us a couple of times and a few younger boys have beat us. You never lose that competitiveness. The legs might not work but the brain is still sharp enough for most boys.
“It takes you back. When you go into the dressing room with everyone it brings back great memories. I think when you retire you sort of fall away from everyone and don’t see them as much as you should. I think this keeps the spirits going. Hopefully we can keep it going. Maybe the boys who started it out might not be able to play in five or six years time but hopefully there will be people coming through who will keep it moving along.”
The word legend is often bandied about in football but while this particular group of players have earned that status at Brandywell, Coyle believes it’s their work for good causes which makes them legends in his eyes.
“When someone calls you a legend you take it with a pinch of salt. I have to say everyone who has turned out for the last 10 years - every one of them is a legend to me.
“They’re giving up their time and everything else to help local charities. Legend is a word which is thrown out there readily nowadays but I have to say these guys really are legends for the way they’ve supported it this past 10 years.”