Brandywell Stadium, NIFL Championship, 20/8/22
Me 242, Wee Man 120
Institute Foootball Club
Founded – 1905
Nickname – Stute
Honours – NIFL Championship – 2017/18. North West Senior Cup – 1997/98, 2002/03, 2008/09, 2010/11, 2011/12, 2014/15, 2016/17 and 2017–18
Random Fact – The club were made homeless in 2017 when severe flooding hit Northern Ireland. Their home, The Riverside Stadium was destroyed as a result with building, pitch, ground and fencing damage. This leading to the groundshare with Derry City.
A city I have wanted to visit for a long time to take in the history, so thats exactly what we did pre game. This included a quick visit to the Riverside Stadium. The former home of Institute FC. It’s a sad sight putting it lightly. Mainly still in tact but the pitch is over grown and full of Japanese Knotweed, the changing rooms roofs have caved in and look to have been attacked by neds at some point . This is also the case with the main stand where there has been clear attempts at arson in the top tier and any glass has been smashed up. It is a real shame how this place came to an end. Here is hoping the club can get the wheels in motion for the new ground soon enough.
We found ourselves at the Brandywell Stadium, the for now home of Institute and home of Derry City from the across the border league in the Republic. It’s an ok set up squeezed in between the GAA stadium (Celtic Park, booooo) and a greyhound track/football pitch. It’s a reasonably modern affair with two stands and a plastic pitch.
Prior to heading over I had been in contact with Louise Connor at the club in regards to merchandise as we needed our obligatory scarves and badges. This set us up to meet her in the board room type area prior. A warm and lovely welcome awaited us from Louise and there we also met club chairman Bill, president Charlie and general manager Garry, all of whom were extremely friendly and seemed genuinely chuffed to have foreign visitors. Chatting away we were on the subjects of how the season would go, why we chose NI for a holiday and also Riverside Park which seemed to get Louise welling up. It’s clearly a sore point for the club and the descriptions of when it happened sound horrendous. Even to the extent where you wonder how it was even possible. The water was at crossbar level and as good as completely drowned the the changing rooms out the back of the Main Stand. There does seem to be hope to get the new ground off and running. Fingers crossed for the club.
The second tier of the NIFL pyramid is not something I know much of. I know some of the teams and there are some I had never heard of(Newington Youth). I didn’t know what kind of standard it would be. All I knew going into this was “its a tough league”. That coming from Bill the chairman pre game. On this game it turns out it is hard tackling. There was no shirking whatsoever. 50/50 challenges were booming at at times. The football was played on the deck for the most part but there was no aversion to long punts though. The first half was well matched and both teams created good chances. The best of the earlier opportunities both falling to Annagh’s Mullen, who firstly put power on a header from close range when a glanced effort would have taken it away from Doherty who saved with ease. He then followed up with a glancing header which he should have stuck his head through. Both sides half long range half efforts before the chance of the game fell Jack Coyle. After a quick break Friel was bearing down on goal but unselfishly laid off teammate Coyle for a tap in but he blazed over. The striker was to redeem himself late in the half when he put the Stute in the lead. A poor clearance from Annagh keeper Hughes was retrieved and sent into the box by Institute, Coyle took a touch and picked his spot through a host of bodies, curling it into the bottom corner. A cracking finish leaving Hughes to throw his hat into the net in disgust at his error. The half ended on a controversial moment when Annagh’s Paul Finnegan clattered Stute keeper Doherty long after the ball was there. We saw an elbow, luckily for the Annagh defender the referee didnt.
HT 1 v 0
The second half continued as the hard tackling affair that the first half did with the 50/50 tackles still firing in. This was to see the end of goalscorer Coyles game who was forced off with a knee injury . The game was soon held up for a lengthy period when Friel sneakily shoved a visiting defender into Hughes busting claret everywhere from the goalkeepers nose and leaving a patch up job needed. Another similarity to the first half, both teams were to create numerous chances. Institute having the best. First when Friel did well out wide and put in a dangerous ball, Dunne looked to hesitate before sliding in to tap home but unfortunatley being hesitant led to him being a split second late. Incredibly and almost immediately a similar chance fell to the Stute but this time it was Friel who was the culprit. Would Institute rue these. Yes they would. All game Annagh’s Craig Taylor’s monster throws were causing havoc at the back for Institute. This time the defence only half cleared straight to Jordan Campbell’s head which directed the ball beautifully up and over everyone into the top corner. A brilliant looping header. Then in a flash the visitors took the lead. A long ball over the top saw Annagh break at speed, Stute keeper Doherty came sprinting off his line to cut out the danger. Unfortunatley as he caught the ball he overstepped the eighteen yard line. The referee had no choice but to send him packing . Replacement keeper Gareth Muldoon’s first job was to keep an 18 year free kick out. As his wall didnt stand strong letting the ball thorough it looked like he saw it late leading to a weak hand letting it creep over the line. But did it go over the line? The ball was cleared , the linesman ran in a fashion where he was playing on but the referee gave it to multiple protests from the boys in blue. This raised the temper of the game leading to handbags bags all over the pitch with every minor detail infuriating players and leading to pushing and shoving across the park. The blood pressure increased but the seconds declined and Institute ran out of time leaving Annagh to take the points south to Portadown.
A decent enough game with numerous talking points between two evenly matched sides. Not the main purpose of the trip but a worthy addition adding an extremely friendly club to the list. Louise promised us a tour of the new ground when its ready. Ill hold her to that.
We left Derry with more knowledge in our head on the history of the city and of the club armed with the necessary wooly garments that accompany every foreign game we head to. A cracking day out to end the trip on, signing off with a swim and tea in our Templepatrick hotel culminating in us both falling asleep early on our beds watching Bob’s Burgers, waking in time for breakfast. Walking the Derry Walls must have tired us out.
Entrance – £8 Me, £0 Wee Man
Attendance– 164 (Rough head count)
Pie – Free Coffee
Pint – £4 , Five Lamps Red Ale, Brickworks Bar
Score Prediction – Me 1 v 1 , Wee Man 1 v 2
Overall Score Predictions – Me 0 v 1 Wee Man