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Derry City games didn’t stop rioting, says McCann


Eamonn McCann

Eamonn McCann

Eamonn McCann

Veteran politician Eamonn McCann has laughed off the suggestion the rise of Derry City football club quelled rioting in the Maiden City.

A new BBC documentary charts the resurrection and rise of the Candystripes after they were forced out of the Irish League in 1972 amid security concerns.

After 13 years of being refused readmission to the football league in Northern Ireland, Derry City eventually gained permission from the IFA and FIFA to join the League of Ireland in 1985.

The documentary charts the club’s journey from the brink of collapse in the 1970s to playing Portuguese football giants Benfica in the European Cup in 1989.

During the show one of the men credited with reviving the club, former DCFC footballer Eddie Mahon, is joined by fans in saying they believe the club’s resurgence stopped young men from rioting in Derry.

Mr Mahon tells the show: “There used to be a weekly riot on William Street in Derry every Saturday and after Derry (the club) came in and the town went nuts for Derry the rioting stopped, they would never riot on William Street afterwards.

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“It was just everybody had turned to football, all the young fellas anyway, the guys who would have been doing the rioting, they all turned to football.”

However fellow Derry native Eamon McCann doesn’t quite share the same view when being interviewed as part of the documentary.

“I love that it is said that rioting stopped when Derry City was playing, I don’t think that’s true, I don’t think that’s true,” he laughed.

Prior to the Troubles, the club had played in the Irish League from its formation in 1928, with some success, picking up a league title in the 1964/65 season.

However, when violence broke out across the region and the city came under siege it had a knock-on effect for the club. They were forced to play their home games in Coleraine after a group of masked youths stole the Ballymena United team bus and burnt it.

Faced with dwindling crowds and refused the opportunity to return to the Brandywell the club folded in 1972. After over a decade without a senior team four former Derry footballers came together in 1984 with the aim of bringing football back to the city.

Tony O’Doherty, Terry Harkin, Eamonn McLaughlin and Eddie Mahon were dubbed the Gang of Four for their efforts and are all featured in the BBC documentary which is on BBC One Northern Ireland on Monday night at 9pm.