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The day Martin McGuinness disposed of bomb near the Brandywell ahead of Benfica tie

By Allan Preston

With the funeral of Martin McGuinness taking place this afternoon in his home city of Londonderry, one of the lesser known stories from his past has emerged.

In September 1989 Derry City FC were due to play Portuguese side Benfica at the Brandywell. In later years Mr McGuinness claimed the match would not have taken place had he not disposed of a suspected bomb at a nearby cemetery.

Mr McGuinness was a senior commander of the IRA in the area. He has previously he insisted he left the group in 1974, but that has been disputed.

In a revealing interview with the Guardian newspaper in 2001 with the headline 'My team,' Mr McGuinness, who was Education Minister at the time, relayed the incident in detail.

As a lifelong Derry City fan, the former First Minister said that having Benfica come to the Brandywell for a European Cup fixture was "an unimaginably glamorous occasion". However, the game came within moments of being called off.

"Some senior representatives of the club came to see me and said there was a major problem," Mr McGuinness explained.

"The game would have been called off and that would have been a disaster from Derry's point of view."

The late Sinn Fein man then walked with the club's directors to the cemetery.

"I remember them hiding behind the headstones while I tied a rope around the device and pulled the thing out," Mr McGuinness said.

"We opened a manhole in the cemetery and threw whatever material was in it down the drain and flushed it away.

"Between the directors and ourselves, we managed to avert what would have been a disaster for Derry City."

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