Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Features

Irish League football returns to Brandywell as Institute move in

By Adam McKendry

Irish League football will be played at the Brandywell for the first time in 47 years after newly promoted Institute registered it as their home ground for the upcoming season.

The Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL) confirmed that the club will play at the home of League of Ireland neighbours Derry City on a temporary basis.

The last Irish League game at the Brandywell was in 1971 when the Candystripes hosted Ballymena United.

The visitors' team bus was attacked and torched. The RUC and Irish League determined that it would be too risky for Derry City to host matches at the Bogside stadium as the Troubles escalated. As a result, the Candystripes played their home games at Coleraine for a short while before pulling out of the Irish League altogether in 1972.

Thirteen years later top flight football returned to the Brandywell when Derry City joined the League of Ireland.

Institute have been without a home after flooding caused severe damage to their Riverside Stadium in Drumahoe.

It left the club needing to declare a temporary venue for their home matches, having been promoted from the Bluefin Sport Championship as winners last season.

Glentoran had offered them the use of The Oval in Belfast, however that would have required a 140-mile round trip just to play home matches.

Instead, Institute have declared the Brandywell as home for the next year after getting the green light from Derry City and Strabane District Council.

The council came back with a decision yesterday, with Institute required to register their home stadium with the NIFL by midnight.

The League of Ireland season runs to a much different schedule than the Irish League season, meaning there should be very few fixture clashes.

Its state-of-the-art refurbishment makes it the perfect local ground for the Danske Bank Premiership new boys.

Institute chairman Bill Anderson said: "We have spoken to council representatives, MLA representatives, the PSNI, local community groups, NIFL and all interested parties.

"Derry City FC are right behind us, the Derry District League are behind us, everybody who is involved with football in the city are behind the idea."

Having their immediate future sorted out means that the north west club can start to prepare for their return to the top tier of local football after three years in the lower division.

But Institute's long-term plan is, of course, to look for a permanent home in the village, away from the flood-prone Riverside Stadium.

"We are still looking for an appropriate site so we can relocate in order to secure the future of the club for the next 100 years," Mr Anderson said.

He added: "At the Riverside Stadium, we are on the fourth highest floodplain in Northern Ireland."

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph