Leaving Brandywell would be tough but would benefit Derry City long term

It was great to see Derry City Chairman Philip O’Doherty start to really focus on the club’s long term plan.

By Kevin McLaughlin
Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 12:30 pm
Templemore Sports Complex could be the perfect location for Philip O’Doherty’s ambitious new plan for the club’s possible ‘new home’.
Templemore Sports Complex could be the perfect location for Philip O’Doherty’s ambitious new plan for the club’s possible ‘new home’.

I know, having worked behind the scenes of the club, the dedication and tireless work, Mr O’Doherty has done and continues to do for his home town club.

The Chairman revealed ambitious new plans to construct an all-purpose ‘new home’ for the Candy Stripes though he was very clear the club wasn’t going to move from their spiritual Brandywell home. However, I truly believe moving away from the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium would benefit the club in the long term.

In fact, I would go one step further and suggest the club purchase Templemore Sports Complex to use as that all-in-one Derry City base and incorporated a stadium alongside outdoor and indoor training facilities for the whole club to use for both training and matches.

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Derry City training a foggy Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium. Picture courtesy Kevin Morrison/Event Images & Video

Mr O’Doherty’s vision is not only to transform the fortunes of the first team but also to invest in the future of the club’s youth academy, operating at its own base, which will include the provision of several grass and 4G pitches, changing facilities and a state-of-the art gymnasium.

Now I know Derry City traditionalists will not be happy with me even suggesting their club consider leaving Brandywell but I believe it would benefit the club in the long term and more importantly mean the club would once and for all have their own home and cease being just be a council tenant.

To be fair, the relationship the club and the council has had over the years is second to none and while brokering an agreement for ‘The Complex’ seems far fetched, I strongly feel the club should at least investigate it with the intention of building a new home for the long term future of the club.

Templemore is the ideal location. You have enough room to build what the club sees as a long term vision and if the club ever moved or played a part in an All Island league, then access in and around the area is perfect.

Only a few years ago Kenny Bruce decided to back his own home town club, Larne. However, that deal was dependent on the sale of Inver Park and, yes, I know Inver Park isn’t the same as trying to buy Templemore Sports Complex, the long term is what Bruce was thinking about and having visited the ground last season when City played Larne in a friendly, you couldn’t help but be impressed at how much work has been done and is still being carried out.

Bruce is also ensuring things at youth level are looked after and only recently they announced teenager Matty Lusty had signed a professional contract with the club, becoming the first member of the club’s Academy Scholarship programme to do so.

Now, Derry is miles ahead of Larne (and most clubs in the country, north or south) in terms of youth set-up and players progressing to senior football but to sustain that Mr. O’Doherty rightfully believes the club needs a permanent facility, dedicated to youth players.

Yes, the newly refurbished Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium is impressive and the venue has staged some memorable games down the years, from the first match in the League of Ireland back in 1985 when City saw off Home Farm 3-1 in the FAI League Cup with Barry McCreadie Derry’s first goal-scorer that day, to European giants Barcelona, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Celtic and Paris Saint-Germain all playing on the hallowed Brandywell turf.

However, it’s also disappointing that for all the millions that Phlip O’Doherty has put into the club, he (well his club) still have to contact Derry City & Strabane District Council to see if the U17 team can play a game, or if the first team can train on the Brandywell in case someone else has booked the council owned facility.

The amount of money, work and effort that Mr O’Doherty has put in to the club is second to none but his legacy, which I know isn’t the reason he does what he does, isn’t going to be much apart from a few fans in the years to come saying ‘Philip O’Doherty put some money into Derry City’. However, if he was the chairman that purchased land and built a whole new home, fully suited and booted in terms of new state of the art training facilities that would form an integral part of the club’s proposed five year plan, then that would be a fitting legacy.

The other aspect that the club could work on is do more with the community and that too would benefit them in the long term,

When spectators are eventually allowed back into grounds, attendances would increase, something Larne and Bohemians have already done really well.

In fact ‘The Gypsies’ in particular have done superbly, so much so that they were ‘blown away’ that for the first time in their 131-year history that they now have over 1,000 club members and counting, that’s over 200 new members for 2021. In times of great uncertainty this is incredible but that just didn’t happen over night. The club has worked behind the scenes, away from the first team, with the people in and around Dalymount Park to make it happen.

With our own five year plan at Derry, it’s great to see that the Candy Stripes are starting to really look at the future. However I, for one, hope that this time the chairman and the board put their long term blueprint plan into bricks, mortar and a infrastructure and away from the pitch. If they do the club has the potential to be envy of most throughout the country.