Five years after leading Derry City back to the Airtricity Premier Division, former Brandywell favourite Mark McChrystal was celebrating another promotion after he captained Bristol Rovers to victory in the Vanarama Conference Play-off final at Wembley on Sunday.
McChrystal lead his team to a 5-3 penalty shoot-out win before a record Conference play-off final attendance of 47,029 after the game finished 1-1 after extra-time.
Ellis Harrison hit Rovers’ 30th minute equaliser after Lennell John-Lewis had put Grimbsy Town ahead before a dramatic finale saw Rovers boss, Darrell Clarke, send on veteran keeper Steve Mildenhall in place of Will Puddy for ths shoot-out.
The move proved a masterstroke as Grimsby substitute Jon-Paul Pittman fired over the bar leaving Lee Mansell to shoot McChrystal and Rovers back into the Football League after one season in the Conference.
Relegation had prompted suggestions that McChrystal, along with several other members of the playing staff, might have to leave the Memorial Stadium but the Derry man remained alongside the team manager and he played a key role in the revival.
“Thank goodness we have secured prompotion,” said McChsytal.
“The Conference is a very difficult division to get out of but getting back to the football league has always been our priority and we have secured that.
“We have bounced back well from last season’s disappointment and it was fantastic to see so many ‘Pirates’ fans enjoying themselves at Wembley Stadium.”