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26 May 2022

Derry City: 25 years not out for Brandywell Pride!

Derry City: 25 years not out for Brandywell Pride!

Members of Brandywell Pride with former Derry City and current Republic of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny.

Brandywell Pride Supporter's Club celebrate a significant milestone this year as they reach their 25th anniversary.

A constant feature of Derry games home and away, the club has been as vociferous as it has been colorful over the years. Ahead of a huge season for the club and its supporters, long-standing member JP Fahy gave his views on the longevity of BPSC.

How significant is this milestone for Brandywell Pride?

It’s a major milestone, especially when you think of all the other supporter’s clubs that were around back in the early days of Derry City returning to senior football.

I remember in my early days of watching Derry City and going to the odd away game we used to travel with the Creggan Supporters club which my father was a member of. Unfortunately that club is no longer going and some of the ex-members are scattered around the other supporter’s clubs.

I know the Pride of the Northside are going a long time and Maileys as well and hopefully all three can continue for a long time yet. It is also good to see another club starting up in the last few years in the form of the Gary Beckett supporters club. The more the merrier I say because it is exciting times for Derry City supporters.

What has been the secret behind the club lasting so long?

We always have a 'Player of the Month' award in which the winning player comes up to the Oakgrove Bar after the first home match of the month to collect their award. They are often joined by their families and because we promote it on social media we sometimes get people up who not members just to join in with the atmosphere and get their photo taking with the winning player.

Just having a presence in Block J and trying to create the best possible atmosphere is significant as well. We have dedicated members that meet in the Oakgrove Bar prior to kick-off and carry the drums and flags to the Brandywell to give us the best chance to do this. It’s hard not to know when we’re in because once Scaldy gets into his seat he doesn’t waste any time and starts beating that drum.

I know from my early days of being a member there was a lot of work put in by Karen Pyne and the late Barney Barnfield to keep the club going and ensure that our presence in block J would never diminish. If I’m not mistaken Gerry Houston was one of the founding members and he and others helped create many great displays which culminated in a great atmosphere at not just the Brandywell but also away grounds and for years Derry City were lauded as having the best supporters in Ireland.

Any favourite memories stand out?

I remember in 2018 our first 'Player of the Month' was Ronan Hale and it was probably the biggest crowd we ever had at a player of the month award. I think half of those there were up to congratulate Ronan and the other half were there in the hope to catch a glimpse of his Grandfather Danny who was an iconic striker for Derry City in the Irish League days. You had the younger generations queuing for their photo with Ronan and his award and of course his brother Rory was in attendance as well.

A happy birthday suprise for John Pio during covid lockdown.

In 2017 we celebrated our 20th Anniversary in the Maldron and we amalgamated it with our end of season awards as well and it was just a brilliant night all round. We also had the families of Barney Barnfield, Mark Farren and Ryan McBride in attendance to celebrate with us as well which made it emotional too.

The club has lost a few people over the years, like Barney and Hugh. Can you talk about their impact?

Their impact on the club was massive. Barney was the reason why I joined Brandywell Pride, after years of standing in block J and deliberating about joining, I asked him for two seats to the Rovers semi-final and it was not a bother. Whilst on that bus he told my brother and I that the end of the season award nights was coming up and he wanted to see us there and wanted to see us joining for the following season. And we did.

Unfortunately I only knew Barney personally for a short space of time as he became ill and passed away few months before the end of the 2015 season. I was devastated at his death as were many others in the club who knew him longer than I did.

Along with Karen Pyne he kept the Brandywell Pride going and ensured it didn’t fold when member numbers started to dwindle.

Hugh as well was a huge loss to the club. Like Barney nothing was a bother to him and if we needed anything done he was one of the first to put his hand up and volunteer. One memory stands out, when Declan Devine was looking for messages from supporters to the players ahead of the 2020 season we decided to do one as a supporters club instead of individual messages.

Hugh, despite his voice being very weak was determined to give the speech on behalf of the club with the rest of us behind him. Anyone that knew Hugh, knew he drove around in his mini-bus and that mini-bus went everywhere in Ireland whenever Derry City were playing.

The news of his death was devastating for us all. The turnout both received at their funerals was testament to how the men were as people.

Brandywell Pride's 'Player of the Month' award has always been popular.

I think as a club we owe it to both to keep Brandywell Pride going from strength to strength by growing the membership and seeing if we can return to taking regular buses to away matches.

What are your hopes for this season on and off the pitch?

On the pitch I would like to see us finish comfortably within the top 2 or 3. It’s going to be very difficult for us the win the league because we finished 24 points behind Shamrock Rovers and that’s a huge number of points to overturn. If we can close that gap significantly, qualify for Europe with a few games to spare and maybe get a wee trip to the AVIVA again would be brilliant and give us something to build upon.

Off the pitch, my hopes would be to see developments within the infrastructure of the club that have been talked about progressed, with the likes of news that a definite site has been found for the new training and academy base as well as funding to finish the Brandywell become available. I know it was announced in the last few days that that stadia funding for Northern Ireland football is not going ahead before May but hopefully it will go ahead after that and hopefully the season ticket sales as well as demand for general sale tickets will help ours and the councils the cause when it comes to bidding.

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