As fans wait patiently for news of new arrivals at the Brandywell in the close season, and players leave the club all too soon, we take a trip back down memory lane to remember some of those players who made their mark at the Brandywell.
Derry News Sports Editor Gary Ferry picks out 10 of the best, players whose stay may have been brief, but long enough to make their mark for Derry City Football Club.
One exciting subplot to City's return to senior footbal was undoubtedly the signing of Dennis Tueart, the former Sunderland, Manchester City and Burnley forward.
Tueart had struck up a friendship with Derry man Eamonn McLaughlin while both played at Sunderland, and it was he who set about persuading Tueart, recently retired, to give football another shot with the Candy Stripes.
The performance of Tueart against Home Farm was an added bonus for City’s football-starved fans and the English magician had the crowd on its feet just 18 minutes in as he beat Home Farm defender Bollard before dinking a cross over goalkeeper Dave Henderson, straight onto the head of Barry McCreadie, who powered Derry into the lead.
Tueart’s stay at the club was brief but in his time there he scored one goal, which came in a League Cup defeat to UCD at the Brandywell.
Following a change in manager, a new look Derry City took shape, with the likes of Owen Da Gama and Nelson Da Silva donning the Candystripes.
Around this time, it was announced that Tueart had left club due to increasing business demands back home in Manchester. That, plus a change in the ferry times meant that he was finding it increasingly difficult to commit to Derry City. In all he made just nine appearances.
Bradley, a Derry man by birth, had played at Derry years earlier, before moving to Harps where he became not only a legendary scorer in Donegal, but in the entire League of Ireland. Noel King’s His punt on Brendan Bradley from Harps was not too much of a risk in that regard, with Bradley renowned as one of the most lethal strikers in the country, and Derry fans got their first look at their new hitman at the beginning of February, in the club’s first FAI Cup tie at home to the Garda.
The game saw five different goal scorers for the hosts, the most notable of which was Bradley, who hammered in his first goal for the club since he was a teenager back in 1968.
Bradley did not take too long to get settled and in a season when many players came and went, Bradley stood out, scoring 9 goals in just 14 appearances. At one stage he scored in five consecutive games, which included two doubles against former employers Harps. Bradley’s time at the club was brief but he made a huge impact, showing that he had no problem remembering where the net was.
NELSON DA SILVA
Adding to the fans’ excitement in that first season, Derry suddenly went international, and the arrivals of Brazilian Nelson Da Silva and South African Owen Da Gama had everyone talking.
Their first game against Cobh Ramblers was a mismatch as Derry ran out comfortable 3-0 winners. Da Gama headed Derry into the lead on 15 minutes with his first goal for the club, before Nelson Da Silva took fans’ breath away with a stunning free kick just before half time, just the start of the Brazilian brilliance which was to shine in his brief time at the club.
After a difficult spell, there were signs that Derry were getting back into the swing of things again as January 1986 came to a close with victory at Sligo. Da Silva was again on target for King’s team, finding the net from 18 yards before celebrating with what was now becoming a familiar Samba dance routine.
A rather inconsistent league season ended on a high note on March 2 as Derry cruised to a 3-0 win at Cobh with another collector’s item from Da Silva ensuring that Derry finished in fourth place in their debut season.
The season ended on a high with victory over Longford in the two-legged Shield final against Longford. Owen Da Gama may have got the goals but Da Silva was one of the stars of the show on his last appearance. In all Da Silva made 21 appearances, scoring 5 goals.
As if the pairing of Owen Da Gama and Alex Krstic wasn’t enough, Noel King bolstered his options further with a significant coup in 1987. Former Arsenal and Ipswich forward Alan Sunderland, who had scored the winner in the 1979 FA Cup Final against Manchester United, agreed to join Derry City. He had an immediate impact, scoring a last gasp winner against Shelbourne to announce himself to his new supporters. The goal kept City ahead in the race for the league title. The title and promotion was within reach and it was confirmed against Drogheda United on February 8. Sunderland picked the perfect time to score his first Brandywell goal as City got the job done to spark scenes of huge celebration at the Brandywell. Sunderland’s time at Derry was always set to be brief, but in those eight appearances he provided just enough magic to leave an indelible mark on the Candystripes.
Noel Larkin was one of the key signings as Jim McLaughlin built the squad which eventually turned Derry City into the best team in Ireland. Of all the names associated with the treble year, Larkin’s contribution can often go unheralded, but he played a key role, making 42 appearances that year and chipping in with 10 goals.
The first leg of the treble was secured at Oriel Park where City put on a masterclass to dominate Dundalk.
With Felix Healy, Johnny Speak and Larkin in top form, the Dundalk defence didn’t stand a chance and three goals in ten first half minutes won the cup for Derry before the half time whistle had even gone.
Already a goal up through Johnny Speak, City doubled their lead when a cheeky back heel from Speak set up John Coady, whose cross found Larkin, who brought the ball down and hammered it into the net. The game ended 4-0 with Paul Doolin grabbing the other two.
At the end of the game Merchandising Director of Opel, John Young, presented the League Cup to Jack Keay and Derry City celebrated their first League Cup win as a League of Ireland team.
Larkin contributed key goals throughout the campaign, scoring the winner away at Cork when he robbed goalkeeper Phil Harrington before a double at Bohemians sent Derry clear at the top of the table. The emergence of a young Liam Coyle saw Larkin fall down the pecking order ultimately, but there is no doubting the striker’s contributions at key stages of the club’s best ever season.
Who could ever forget David Kelly’s time at Derry City?
With Derry City short on attacking options at the start of the 2002-03 season, manager Kevin Mahon, to the surprise and delight of many, announced the arrival of the former Republic of Ireland striker.
Whilst City really struggled in the league, the FAI Cup was a source of comfort and Kelly scored his first goal as Derry defeated Waterford 3-0 to make it to the quarterfinals. The club made it all the way to the final but in the build-up they were hit with the bombshell that Kelly had been appointed as Tranmere Rovers’ assistant manager. The striker, who had made just ten appearances, and scored two goals, was therefore set to leave the club prematurely. Nevertheless he expressed his desire to feature in the cup final, which was just over two weeks away.
Kelly very nearly missed the game entirely. Scheduled to fly from Birmingham to Dublin on the morning of the final, Kelly was aghast to discover his flight had been cancelled. Rather than cry off, Kelly drove 120 miles to London to catch a later flight. Once he touched down in Dublin, the former Republic of Ireland star was given an escort by the Gardai straight to Tolka Park, where he arrived just in time for the pre-game warm up.
Kelly was in no mood to lose the cup final against Shamrock Rovers after all those efforts, and whilst it was Liam Coyle who scored the cup-winning goal, Kelly contributed by making a vital goal-line clearance to maintain City’s lead. That was the first cup final and first trophy of Kelly’s career.
Little was known about Niall McGinn when he was snapped up by Stephen Kenny early in 2008. Kenny famously was at a Dungannon Swifts game scouting a different player but McGinn caught his eye and in less than a season, the young winger had repaid his manager’s faith.
McGinn took a short while to get into the swing of things at the Brandywell and when he did he was often unplayable.
His lightning pace on the wing and his eye for goal made him one of the hottest properties around and he made 47 appearances in his only season at the Brandywell, scoring 9 goals. His finest moment came in the League Cup final at Wexford, where he scored two goals. The disappointment of an FAI Cup final defeat was quickly forgotten when Glasgow Celtic came calling, making his stay at Derry City a short one.
Upon Derry City’s return to the Premier Division, Stephen Kenny knew the importance of adding experienced players and in Eamon Zayed he found just what he needed. Having played for Bray Wanderers, Drogheda United and Sporting Fingal, Zayed knew Irish football well and he proved a massive hit at the Brandywell. In 40 appearances at Derry, he scored 24 goals, claiming the Golden Boot in the process.
As well as scoring a memorable hat trick against UCD and four in a rout of Galway United, Zayed also scored the only goal in the League Cup final against Cork City at Turners Cross. He left Derry City after just one year to join Iranian side Persepolis, but his time at the Brandywell is still fondly remembered.
Arguably Kenny Shiels’ best ever signing for Derry City, Vemmelund was an unknown when he came to Ireland, but that changed very quickly. Making 41 appearances in his only season at the club, Vemmelund made a name for himself as a stylish but skilful defender who could play with the ball at his feet. As impressive in the air as he was on the ground he quickly became a fans’ favourite. He was never quite a danger at the other end of the pitch, scoring just one goal for the Candystripes, but he was a rock at the back and it hurt to lose him to Dundalk at the end of the season. Vemmelund would add to his reputation at Oriel ark but it was his time at the Brandywell which really made him stand out.
For a 19-year old to score 19 goals in his first season in senior football is extraordinary. The Derry youngster arrived on loan from Sheffield United and wasted no time, scoring on his debut against UCD to help Declan Devine get off to a winning start in his second spell as manager. Parkhouse could score any type of goal, with two at Ballybofey helping City to a dramatic 3-2 win over Finn Harps. His highlight though was his four goal haul against Waterford in the EA Sports League Cup semi-final at the Brandywell. He also scored in the cup final itself against Dundalk, all as a teenager playing against some of the best defenders in Ireland.
He finished as the club's top scorer overall with 19 goals. His contribution will not quickly be forgotten.
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