Page last updated at 15:15 GMT, Monday, 2 June 2008 16:15 UK

Actor celebrates Derry City link

Sean Bean
Sean Bean watched Derry City take on Cork City

There were 2,000 fans at Derry City's Brandywell ground for the match on Sunday evening but, the game aside, all the attention was on one man.

Actor Sean Bean - the star of the Sharpe television series - was there to celebrate the club's little-known links with a team close to his heart.

A lifelong Sheffield United fan, Bean said he had always wanted to see Derry City play because of the Candystripes' unique connection with his own team, nicknamed the Blades.

"Billy Gillespie, who played for Sheffield United for 20 years, then went on to manage Derry City in 1932.

"It was quite unusual, bucause as part of the deal, Billy Gillespie, who was from Donegal, had to bring a kit with him.

"So it's by virtue of his presence at Sheffield that the red and white colours were adopted for Derry City, and that's the link between the two," he said.

When I was at the match I was thinking I was at Bramall Lane for a bit
Sean Bean

Bean said the link between the two clubs meant he had always taken an interest in Derry City.

"I find it very flattering for the sake of Sheffield United, and I suppose something catches your eye with the red and white stripes.

"When I was at the match I was thinking I was at Bramall Lane for a bit."

But it wasn't just the hometown connection that made his visit to the Brandywell so memorable.

"Football is immensely important to me.

"I remember my Dad took me along when I was six or seven - it was winter, the floodlights were on, and there was a great atmosphere, and as a boy you're quite knocked out by that.

"What I can see about Derry City is that it's grounded in community, and it's something that people are very proud of.

"You hear so much now about the trouble in football, about the financial situation, the power and sometimes perhaps the greed, and it's good to see friendship in football.

"Coming here, it takes me back to what it's all about."

'True supporter'

Bean said that, for him, his trip to Derry City had been a real stroll down memory lane.

"This is what football's all about.

"It's nice to have a big ground and glass windows and director's boxes, but it's when you get down to the grass roots and the nitty-gritty, that's when it gets you in your heart.

"That's where you find if you're a true football supporter or not," he said.

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