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Official Review by Martin McNelis, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Derry City, known as 'The Candystripes' for their distinctive red and white striped shirts were formed in 1928 and have been playing at their Brandywell home since 1929. It is located in the southwest of Derry and is only 10-15 minutes walking distance from the city centre. It is set in the bottom of a valley, flanked by housing, with the (GAA) Gaelic Athletic Association's Celtic Park adjacent, the city cemetery looming over it on one side and the famous city walls visible high up on the other. Its floodlights are visible from some distance and although the club are from Northern Ireland, they have been playing within the Republic of Ireland league structure since 1985, following a variety of safety and political issues dating back to civil unrest in the 1970s and 80s.
The Brandywell's current capacity is approximately 7,700. It is owned by the local council and is used by community teams of all ages. It has a very distinctive oval type shape to incorporate football and greyhound racing and displays a mixture of modern facilities with some older and traditional features. The club have been allocated funding with a programme of redevelopment works that will be completed in early 2017. The plans indicate a new synthetic pitch, purpose built stand, an upgrade to the perimeter track and car parking facilities around the venue.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The club have a couple of external fast food vans along with a couple of their own outlets selling home made soup, tea, coffee, and confectionaries.
Food is of similar standard for the average football ground, with the likes of burgers, chips and gravy proving very popular, along with chips and curry sauce.
Drink options are varied with bottles of Coke for sale, along with small polystyrene cups of Coke and hot drinks like tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and soup.
Walking up to the game, there is a good positive atmosphere. The fans are passionate and there is a healthy rivalry, more likely because the Dublin teams dominate the Premier League. There are a couple of areas which start songs and bang a drum, with the majority in the left corner near the scoreboard. There are also a small band of fans who congregate on the right hand terrace who are vocal at certain parts of the game.
The current Main Stand was built in 1991. It is all seated in red with the stadium name outlined with black seats and runs the length of the pitch, taking it just into both the corners of that side. The away fans are housed in the right hand corner of this stand, with everywhere else designated for the home support. It has a low roof with no supporting pillars and provides possibly the best view of watching a game, despite there being some distance from the pitch due to the dog track and a grass verge. To the left of this stand there is an electric scoreboard which displays the team scores, clock, and relevant notices, with a burger van behind it.
You are able to walk around most of the ground and behind the left goal is where there is a variety of activity and intrigue. This part is a standing area and is monitored by a number of stewards before kick off, half time and full time. Fans are not permitted to pass this area for a few minutes at each of those key times as the players and officials are escorted through a passageway that leads to a detached building that provides the changing room facilities.
As you make your way around, the 'Candy Stripes Store' is located here, with Police control and First Aid huts in front of it. On the corner is the disabled section with two entrances and exits behind on Lone Moor Road. There is also a very small covered terrace on the far left corner which would shelter in the region of one hundred people. There used to be a small stand oddly located here, but this was demolished in 2004. Past this, there is an open terrace which has a mixture of crush barriers for fans who wish to stand and then a few hundred red seats which run four steps deep and covers most of that side of the ground. Despite some changes over the years, this area is still referred to by Derry City fans as 'the Jungle.'
The dug outs are facing you if you are sitting low down in the middle of the open side across from the Main Stand, therefore you will miss quite a lot of the game if you choose to sit here for the entire 90 minutes. On the right hand corner there is an exit which is opened towards the end of a home match, and behind the right hand goal there is an open, limited standing space dominated by advertising hoardings.
Having sat and stood at all parts of the ground throughout the game attended, the best view in my opinion is in the middle on either side of the half way line in the Main Stand. It provides a clear view of all areas of the pitch and you are sheltered from the Irish elements!
The ground is 10 minutes walk and five minutes drive from the city centre. There are a couple of small shops and pubs next to the ground, but for more variety you could easily eat and drink in the centre then leave plenty of time to head to the game.
The Bentley Bar & Steakhouse in the city centre is a good choice. They have great food and drink options with excellent staff service.
The Guildhall, Derry's Walls, Peace Bridge, Tower Museum and the endless wall murals painted on the side of some of the houses are all worth a visit if you have the time.
If you are staying in town, the Maldron Hotel is modern and has been recently upgraded with excellent rooms, bar and breakfast available with friendly accommodating staff. The Travelodge is one of the cheaper options and provides decent value and a good base, located in the centre of town.
This is a community club who display patience with a young team. There are a good blend of ages with people attending alone, in small groups and encouragingly a lot of young families.
Depending on the opposition and how the team are faring in the league, crowds can vary from 3,000-5,000 for home games.
The ground is situated a matter of minutes from the city centre if travelling on foot or from the Foyle bus station. Derry/Londonderry train station is slightly further out and will take a few more minutes longer to get to the Brandywell. Street parking is available in among some of the housing and there is an official car park at the back of the Lone Moor Road. The crowd disperses with relative ease and there is not much congestion when exiting. Inside the ground you can move freely around to access the toilets, change of area to watch the game, or to get food and drink.
The ticket pricing is very fair. For seating in the Main Stand, an adult it is £12, concessions will cost about £9, and Under 14s are £5.
For standing areas, adults are £10, concessions are £8, and Under14s £2. The tickets for home games can be bought at the ground or from a variety of local shops. It is beneficial to get them before hand to avoid any queue congestion in the lead up to kick off. The club use Ticketmaster and each ticket is scanned with the barcode on it.
Derry City are a well supported Premier League club and have pricing that is fair and affordable for the average fan, and for those who also wish to bring along friends, relatives and young kids. The standard of football is fair and provides a decent level of entertainment.
This is an area steeped in history, good and bad over hundreds of years. The ground is surrounded by the cemetery, Derry's walls, a large playing field and the imposing Celtic Park Gaelic stadium next door.
A very pleasant, entertaining and almost educational experience. I think any stadium enthusiast would enjoy taking in some of the sights, like the changing rooms set up which are not available at a lot of other grounds in Ireland or the U.K.
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59-63 Waterloo St
Derry, Northern Ireland BT48 6HD
+44 28 7126 7295
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