Derry City Football Club begins new season in Buncrana

By Seán O'Halloran

Image source, Inpho
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Derry City hope to be back at a revamped Brandywell by 2018

Derry City will make history on Friday when they play their first home fixture of the season in County Donegal.

Brandywell Stadium, the club's home since 1928, is undergoing a multi-million pound facelift - which is set to be finished in time for next season.

The Candystripes take on Limerick City at Buncrana's Maginn Park, with the border-busting League of Ireland clash expected to be a sell-out.

But how will Derry City and their supporters go down in the seaside town?

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Businesses along the main street are hoping for a cash boost

Nestled on the edge of Lough Swilly, just 15 miles from Londonderry, Buncrana is the seaside destination of choice for Derry sun seekers in the summer months.

The invasion of Candystripes fans in March will be a new experience for locals, many of whom hope to reap financial reward.

'Boost for business'

"I can't see it being anything but good for the town," said Pauric O'Flaherty who runs O'Flaherty's bar on the Main Street.

"We're looking forward to it, hopefully now this brings a bit of trade into the town and everyone gets a deal, restaurants and taxi men."

Image source, Adrian Cutliffe
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Maginn Park is home to the Inishowen Football League

"If you're not going to get a boost on a Friday night with Derry City coming down you may close your front doors because you should welcome everybody with open arms.

"Buncrana's a great town with great bars, great restaurants, so come down early and take the dog for a walk and then go town to Maginn to watch the games," added Mr O'Flaherty.

It may have seen a rise in the number of young people playing Gaelic Games in recent years, but Buncrana remains a football-mad town.

Oisin O'Flaherty plays for Buncrana Hearts, and reckons the matches will be a sell-out.

Image source, Adrian Cutliffe

"Inishowen is a soccer area, I play a bit of Gaelic, but soccer is the number one sport down here and I actually think it will be hard to get a ticket down there," he said.

"Friday night is a good night for it because the Inishowen league is on a Sunday. I think it's going to be brilliant, I really do."

'Maginn Park's ready'

Cockhill Celtic's Gerard McLaughlin believes the excitement is palpable now the match is imminent.

"There's a lot of talk about it now," he said. "The sheer fact it's League of Ireland football and is something new means people will come out.

"It will be big for Buncrana, I would say most clubs in Inishowen, players, supporters, officials... they'll all come to Maginn to watch Derry City."

Image source, Adrian Cutliffe
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Up close, the grass looks even better

Speaking of Maginn Park, one reason to be cheerful for the Derry City faithful will be the excellent condition of the football pitch.

Derry City midfielder Mark Timlin will know that all too well, being a native of the town.

But a temporary ground can negatively affect a team's performance - just ask Harry Kane's Tottenham Hotspur - so Derry will be hoping for a rub of the green.

It's lucky then, that the local groundsmen have been working hard for the big day.

Image source, Adrian Cutliffe
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The pitch is said to be in pristine condition

"The biggest match we've had so far was a league cup match between Sligo Rovers and the local Cockhill Celtic and the crowd was quite good," said Elsmer Lee.

"But we're hoping for a lot more at the moment. Derry have put seats in the stand, around 200, 250 and they're going to stay.

"So we're looking forward to it. Maginn Park's ready," he added.

It also helps if one of your colleagues learned his trade at the Nou Camp in Barcelona.

Image source, Adrian Cutliffe
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Derry City will be hoping for a winning start at their new home

In football no-one knows the outcome, but Derry City fans will be hoping the hills of Donegal turn Candystriped on Friday night.

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