Derry City's first competitive match remembered - 90 years on!

The advertisement for Derry City's first ever competitive game in the 'Derry Journal' in August 22nd, 1929.
The advertisement for Derry City's first ever competitive game in the 'Derry Journal' in August 22nd, 1929.
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DERRY CITY Football Club celebrates a special milestone today as it marks the 90th anniversary of its first ever competitive game.

The Brandywell club was founded in May 1928 following 13 years when the city was without a senior club, however, it didn't play competitively until the following year when hosting Glentoran at its Lone Moor Road base on Thursday, August 22nd 1929.

The club has previously been granted admission into the Irish League on May 31st of the same year, the City team replacing Queens Island in the league.

As reported in the 'Derry Journal' on June 3rd 1929, the club's entry was met by 'loud cheers' when news was announced at the McAlinden Cup Final at Brandywell a few days afterwards.

"A meeting of the members of the Irish Senior Football League was held in Belfast on Friday night for the purpose of electing clubs to constitute the League next season.

"Mr R. S. Holland, B. L., Captain J. F. Desmond, J.P. and Mr. C. Denniece, with Mr William M'Gahey, J.P. attended as a deputation in support of an application by Derry City F.C. and supplied particulars regarding the ground, estimated home gate receipts, etc.

"It was decided to admit the club to the league in place of Queen's Island."

The report went on to say: "The decision to admit Derry City F.C. to the Irish League was broadcast at the final of M'Alinden Cup (Derry and District Football Association) between Derry Celtic and Richmond at Brandywell on Friday night and was received with loud cheers."

With admission granted, the club quickly began working on recruiting a manager and of course assembling a team.

The manager was Joe McCleery, formerly the incumbent at Dundalk and the team was gathered from all corners of the UK and Ireland.

The 1954 Derry City team which won the Irish Cup. Back row, l-r, Paddy Fanning, W. P. O'Doherty, A. Borland, C. Forsythe, W. Curran, C. Heffron, J. Humphries, H. Smyth, B. Brolly, M. Doherty, Dr. Sidebottom. Front row, l-r, H. Carlyle, J. Andrews, J. Wilson, J. Delaney, A. Brady, T. Houston (c), G. Toner, C. O'Neill, P. Coyle, J. Lyttle.

The 1954 Derry City team which won the Irish Cup. Back row, l-r, Paddy Fanning, W. P. O'Doherty, A. Borland, C. Forsythe, W. Curran, C. Heffron, J. Humphries, H. Smyth, B. Brolly, M. Doherty, Dr. Sidebottom. Front row, l-r, H. Carlyle, J. Andrews, J. Wilson, J. Delaney, A. Brady, T. Houston (c), G. Toner, C. O'Neill, P. Coyle, J. Lyttle.

Three cross-channel players included Fred Mason, a former Cardiff City player who had previously played with Dundalk, Con Hilley who played the previous year with Crystal Palace and James Crozier - a former Glasgow Celtic player.

Hilley was elected as captain of the new Derry City team with Mason appointed vice captain during a 'musical tea' function held by the club in the Hotel Metropole on Foyle Street the day before the opening match of the season.

With proposed improvements, alterations and extensions to be made at the Brandywell, the excitement was reaching fever pitch for the return of senior football to the city.

And City began life in the auspices of the IFA when they entertained the mighty Glentoran in front of almost 10,000 spectators at the Brandywell.

The 'Journal' report Derry City's admission into the Irish League in May 1929.

The 'Journal' report Derry City's admission into the Irish League in May 1929.

The match report in the 'Journal' on August 23rd 1929 claimed Derry City produced a 'credible display' against 'formidable opposition' as they lost 2-1 to the Glens with striker, Fred Roberts scoring both goals.

It read: "A crowd of practically 10,000 witnessed the reintroduction of senior football to Derry at Brandywell last evening, and, incidentally, the city club's debut in the Irish Senior League.

"Glentoran provided the opposition. The occasion was an auspicious one, but the fact that it was marked by the defeat of the local eleven detracted somewhat from the general success. It can hardly be said, however, that the result was a surprise. It was a creditable display that Derry gave against formidable opposition.

"Playing together in a competitive fixture for the first time was a great handicap in itself, but when it is considered that the pitch, consequent on a day's heavy rain, could not have been in a more treacherous condition all must be satisfied with the result.

"Lack of understanding between the players was the new team's chief drawback. In fact, to it mainly their defeat was due. But this shortcoming was not to be wondered at. It is not an irremediable fault, and once remedied a wonderful improvement will be evident."

The first Derry City team lined up as follows: Morris: Mason and Ray; Stewart, Reed, Hilley; Kirby, Randles, Curran, Buke, and Senior.

A report in the 'Journal' from Derry City's first ever competitive game in 1929.

A report in the 'Journal' from Derry City's first ever competitive game in 1929.

And they did improve with a landmark 3-1 victory over Linfield at Brandywell on Wednesday, September 4th 1929 removing all doubts over the club's ability to compete in the Irish League.

The team performed admirably in its early years finishing mid-table in the first few years before gaining runner-up spot in the 1931-32 seasons.

Derry's 44 year affiliation with the Irish Football Association brought significant success with an Irish League Championship victory (1964/65) plus three Irish Cup victories (1949, 1954 and 1965) under the guidance of Willie Ross (1949 and 65) and Matt Doherty (1954).

Derry City terminated its relationship with the Irish League in 1972 during the 'Troubles'. The burning of the Ballymena United team bus outside the Brandywell Stadium in 1971 saw the club forced to play its home games 30 miles away in the Coleraine Showgrounds.

This had a catastrophic impact on the club, with fans reluctant to travel due to the distance, poor public transport links and unstable political environment.

City applied to return to the Brandywell but this was defeated by a vote of the other Irish League clubs. The club withdrew from the league on the result of the vote, and were forced into junior football. The club reapplied to join the Irish League annually for over a decade, but each time the application was rejected.

The club experienced a renaissance on September 8th 1985 when the Candy Stripes entered the League of Ireland First Division and its opening league game against Home Farm attracted 8,000 supporters as the club breathed new life into the domestic game.

Since that dramatic rebirth Derry have went on to be crowned Premier Division champions twice (1988/89 and 1996.97) and have also won the FAI Cup on five occasions (1989, 1995, 2002, 2006 and 2012) and the League Cup 10 times.

Of course the club have also established a record which has yet to be equalled, the 1988/89 treble winning campaign under the guidance of legendary manager, Jim McLaughlin.