Sean Hargan scored 14 goals for Derry City in the 1996/97 season.
Derry City’s last title-winning squad will reunite today to mark the 25th anniversary of their 1997 Championship win.
Felix Healy, who led the Candystripes to their second and last League of Ireland title, has gathered the band back together again for a reunion of champions which will take the form of a Mayoral reception in the Guildhall before a reception at Badgers afterwards.
This week marked the anniversary of the 2-0 win over St. Patrick’s Athletic at the Brandywell which sealed the league title for the Candystripes at the end of an incredibly memorable season.
Sean Hargan, who in his first full season, scored 14 goals to help the team to the title, cannot quite believe a quarter of a century has passed.
“Things just fell into place that season,” he recalls. “I was looking at a picture of the team with the trophy recently and there’s 16 players in the picture. If Liam was injured, I came in or if Beckett was injured someone else was coming back into the team and it was the same throughout the whole team; you had the likes of Ryan Coyle and Ryan Semple who were coming in and out of the team and doing well. Everything just seemed to click.
“It was mad because we used to travel to the games in a Ford Galaxy. There were only seven of us and Badger used to drive and he and Higgsy used to sit in the front and argue up and down the road about what went on in the match. We were just in the back having the craic.
The rest of the boys were obviously the Dubs; Tony O’Dowd, Richie Purdy, Tommy Dunne and James Keddy and they used to just meet us at the matches.”
There are sure to be plenty of memories and laughs as the former team mates reunite today, with each former players having their own special recollections of that particular time.
“We had played Dundalk and were getting beat 2-0, but came back and won 4-2 at the start of the season and that was a good result,” he continues. “I just remember the team was so fit, so good at closing team down, and getting the ball back. Felix and Kevin Mahon were brilliant at the time, especially for us as younger players.
“I remember they had a meeting with all the younger players over in the Everglades about the ‘Derry Disease’ they called it. Badger and Felix were good at trying to keep people on the right track. There were about 20 if us there and it was just all about the downfalls we had to stay away from when we were trying to get into the first team. I have to say it stood us in good stead and anyone who went on to make it into the first team. It was just guidance you needed at that stage of your career to keep you right.”
Hargan, who won the league title when he was only 22, never lifted another Championship again, and that is still something he cannot get his head around.
“It's hard to believe,” he says. “I was doing well and scoring goals when I first came in and then the next season we won the league and I was like ‘Jesus, it must be like this all the time, it was unbelievable’. But we nearly got relegated the year after and we never won another league after that. That was hard to believe because we were such a good team that season. Even though we were a small unit of 16 players, the squad and the camaraderie ad the craic we used to have coming up and down the road to Dublin was brilliant and the Dublin lads were top lads and good people.
“It is hard to believe it’s been 25 years. Derry have won something like three leagues in the last 100 years which isn’t a great return, but I’m delighted I was a part of the team which last won it. I think the club at the minute are going in the right direction in trying to get that title back to the Northwest.
“I’m looking forward to catching up with everyone; I just hope Beckett remembers his wallet because he’s a wile man when it comes to buying a round…”
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