Derry City fans came out in their thousands for the club’s first game of the new season — despite their new First Division status.
Some 3,500 packed in to the Brandywell to see City draw 1-1 with Cork, belying fears that the club’s demotion would have an adverse affect at the turnstiles.
Derry are famed for the loyal band of supporters who travel the length and breadth of Ireland to support the club.
And they’ll be making the unfamiliar journey to Limerick — a 430-mile round trip — today for the second fixture of the season.
“I didn’t expect that many people to come out for the first game, but then I don’t think anyone did,” said Adrian McGowan of the Brandywell Pride Supporters Club.
“But people were queued up at the turnstiles and there were plenty who didn’t get in to see the start of the match.
“I think there’s even more of a connection between the supporters and the team because it’s an all-local team this year.”
The bookies have made Derry early favourites to win the First Division title and head straight back to the Premier Division again.
They’ll be heading to play the likes of Wexford, Mervue United and Monaghan Town, rather than playing Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers in Dublin.
But with Shelbourne, a new-look Cork side and Finn Harps alongside Derry in the First Division, it is enjoying a higher profile than ever before and the race for promotion promises to be a thrilling one.
McGowan, though, is just happy to still have a team to support.
“Just a few months ago it looked as though we wouldn’t have football in this city,” he said. “It’s great that we have Derry playing again.
“It’s a young team and needs to gain experience but if we can get off to a good start and build confidence it could be interesting.”
The presence of Derry in the league is a boost to the other clubs as Limerick manager Pat Scully says their visit this evening is one of the biggest games of the season.
“It's great to be taking on Derry City at Jackman Park, great for the players, for the club and for the supporters,” he said.
“They've had a difficult time of late, but they're a big name and the lads are looking forward to taking them on.
“I think it was an easy option to make them favourites.
“It might be because of their name, but it's too early to make them favourites.
“They have a good team and some good players, but so do we. We have a good team, we have good players and if we play to our potential we can get something out of the game.”
Emmett Friars, one of the many new faces at the Brandywell this season, scored his first goal for the club in their 1-1 draw with Cork City Foras Co-op last weekend.
It was a slightly disappointing opener in front of the large crowd, although the Cork side, which picked up several big names from the previous club, will be one of Derry’s main rivals for the title.
Derry City (from): Doherty, McCallion, Friars, Henry, Deery, Molloy, Farren, McLean, Harkin, Clarke, McEleney, Kelly, McChrystal, Sweeney, McDaid, Parkhouse, Cassidy, McBride.