The lifelong Derry City fan was the last chairman of the club to bring the league trophy back to the maiden city back in the 1996/97 season and he’s hoping he can prove to be a lucky omen for Ruaidhri Higgins’ troops in the near future.
Chairman of award winning Pennyburn-based packaging firm, Diamond Corrugated and Derry City’s main shirt sponsor for the past 11 years and counting, Mr Diamond was ‘privileged’ to be asked by the club to take up such a prestigious role previously occupied by Nobel Peace Prize laureate, the late John Hume.
At a special press conference held at the club’s offices at Elagh Business Park last Thursday evening, Mr Diamond, alongside his wife Mary and son Niall, added that he was both ‘humbled’ and ‘honoured’ to take up office at a club he has a long and distinguished association with.
Indeed, he’s been a generous supporter of the Candy Stripes down through the years and was the man behind one of the largest sponsorship deals in League of Ireland history back in 2019 when agreeing a substantial six figure three-year deal as the club’s primary shirt sponsor.
“I have a long tradition of supporting Derry City Football Club,” said Mr Diamond. “My grandfather supported Derry City and I’m also very proud to say my sons, particularly Niall, are great supporters of Derry City. So it’s very much in our family’s blood to support the club.
“I remember back to the late ‘60s, just after the Willie Ross era, when Jimmy Hill came into Derry City as player/manager. I remember going to all the games, both home and away in the Irish League days up until ‘72 when he had to withdraw.
“Like all Derry City supporters I was devastated but then of course the return of the club into the League of Ireland in 84/85 was wonderful. So I have a long history of supporting Derry City Football Club and consider myself to be a passionate supporter.
“I’m both humbled and honoured and it’s a great privilege to have been asked to be Club President.”
The local businessman believes the stars have aligned perfectly on and off the pitch to ensure Derry City has a bright future. With plans in the pipeline for a new state-of-the-art, all-purpose training facility, coupled with ambitious plans for a league title charge, Mr Diamond didn’t have to think twice when asked to become a part of it.
”There are a few factors here,” he explained. “There’s the football academy the Board of Derry City are working on. I feel that will be a real game-changer because it will extend our reach to well beyond the north west in terms of attracting the best young footballers into our club. I think that’s the best way for Derry City in the medium to long term to really develop.
“Coupled with that, our underage teams are performing very well at the moment. Our ladies team is doing very well and we have all these young players who are starting to break into the first team.
“There’s a great buzz and excitement around the club with Ruaidhri Higgins as manager and he’s is doing well. We have Patrick McEleney coming next season and I know Ruaidhri is working on and talking to a few more very strong players,” he revealed. “If he can get them, I think we’re moving towards a golden era for Derry City. I think there are exciting times ahead.”
Mr. Diamond has the honour of being the last chairman of the club to win the league during his three and a half year spell at the helm back in the late ‘90s. Current chairman Philip O’Doherty was vice chair at that time and Mr. Diamond insists he would gladly hand over that particular baton to his long time friend.
“Well, I would be very happy to be the lucky omen and I have said to the chairman on a couple of occasions that I’m a bit tired of being the last chairman to have won the league,” he laughed. “So I would be very happy for Philip to take on the accolade of being the last chairman to win it.
“When you’re in football, and when you’re a football person, you do have the highs and the lows. We have had a number of lows over the last 10 years or so and if it wasn’t for Philip and his board, I’m not sure we would have a senior football club. It’s a great credit to Philip O’Doherty who has been chairman for over 10 years. I did it for three and a half years and I can tell you, it’s hard work. So for Philip to do it for such a period of time and run such a successful business is a magnificent credit to him.
“I feel really confident we are embarking on a whole new era for Derry City and I think we will be seriously challenging for major honours from next season onwards. I did have a chat with Philip and Ruaidhri during the week and some of the plans are very exciting. One of which is the new football academy and, for me, that’s a game-changer.
“If we can fulfil that in the way it’s planned, then our reach in terms of bringing young talent into the club will be immense. It will be far greater than what it is today and if it’s anything like the standard that Philip is talking about then it would be absolutely fantastic.”
When asked if he would be at the other end of the phone should the chairman need help in making key decisions, Mr Diamond was keen to point out his was an honorary role but added he would be happy to make himself available.
“They haven’t given me my job description as such,” he smiled. “But I know it’s an honorary role. I’m not on the board. I’m not a decision-maker as such but I have said to Philip and other board members that if I can be of any assistance in any way then they only have to ask.”
The new club President, who occupied his usual seat in the Mark Farren Stand last Friday night, was disappointed not to mark the beginning of his tenure with victory in the North West derby but he’s confident the team will finish the campaign strongly.
“I feel really confident we are embarking on a whole new era for Derry City and I think we will be seriously challenging for major honours from next season onwards.”
City chairman, Mr O’Doherty hopes the new club President will bring good fortune.
“I’ve known Paul a long time now. I’d say being a chairman is a lonely position. I think it’s important to have a board that reflects the business community and it’s good to have somebody now I can sound out especially when there’s difficult decisions to make. Paul offers experience and I hope he brings as much luck as President as he did as chairman before.
“Paul supported us during the bad times. We can all have fair weather friends but Paul has been there for some time. Paul’s been sponsoring the club for 11 years. It’s very important as a chairman to have people you trust around you.”