Posted: 2 weeks ago

Club of the week: The only way is up as Derry City set their sights high in Sports Direct Women’s Premiership

DERRY City’s women’s section was founded in 2002 by former manager and player Declan Devine, now boss of Glentoran Men, with their senior squad now one of nine teams in the Sports Direct Women’s Premiership.

The Candystripes now boast four women’s teams from U15s, U17s and U19s to the seniors, who play at the Ryan McBride Brandywell. 

“The younger girls play with the local clubs in and around Derry, it’s been a conscious decision to not go into that age group because that would have an impact on the local grassroots teams,” explained first team manager Paul Dixon.

Manager Dixon joined in January 2023 and helped Derry move from bottom spot, a place that they had occupied in the Premiership the previous three seasons, to secure eighth in the 2023 campaign. 

“Back then the goal was to stay in the league and we did it and now the expectation goes up for this year,” stated Dixon. 

“This year we want to be sustainable and be in that middle bracket in the league, when relegation isn’t on your mind, and cement ourselves as a Premier League team.”

Shannon Dunne

With no players over 30, it is a young squad but their captain, Shannon Dunne, has a wealth of experience as she was the Derry skipper before moving to Glentoran and helping them secure their first league title in six years before returning to the Brandywell.

“The Brandywell is a completely different place, even compared to last year. We have mascots coming out with the girls, there is music on, the tuck shop is up and going and there is a good environment and a good feel around the place,” added Dixon.

“The crowds have been far, far bigger than what I’ve seen even at a lot of the other clubs in the league, so it’s certainly going in the right way. Derry is great and people get behind their local sides.

“A big thing is to keep the environment right and to keep that togetherness. This week we went to the bowling alley for a bite to eat and played some bowls. 

“It’s a mid-season break at the minute, but we still try to do as much as possible as it’s important to know each other as best we can. You want to go into a season and look over your shoulder and know they have your back, it’s important to create a bond.”

It’s been a big year for their U19s as well as the club has created a pathway for those players to move to the senior squad with the likes of full back Kaci Deery, who has just turned 17, starting every week.

“We’re very much at the early stages of the project. Staying in the league is one thing and now moving up that table is a second thing. It’s getting to the end of the season and seeing where you are at,” says Dixon.

“We want to be pushing for the top, Derry is a big enough city and it’s something that should be down the line, part of the aspirations, but at the minute, it was just fixing all the bits and pieces. We’ll have to see what the aspirations are then.

“Every time you play teams there is something new or something they have improved on, whether it is signing players or the coaching they have been given. Everything has been raised up a level and we just have to keep going with it and we’re confident we can.”

Bonding together (above) and (below) mascots play their part on match days