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Monday, 2 October, 2000, 13:26 GMT 14:26 UK
Payback time for O'Neill
Martin O'Neill
Martin O'Neill brings Celtic to Derry City on Monday
Martin O'Neill watched Derry City play numerous matches in the 1960s - but he never paid through the turnstiles.

However, payback time comes on Monday evening at the Brandywell Stadium when O'Neill's Celtic squad take on Derry City in a match to raise funds for a club which has been in severe financial difficulties in recent months.

While international duties means Henrik Larsson and several other big names will be absent, the presence of the likes of Chris Sutton and Bobby Petta has ensured a bumper attendance with the match an all-ticket sell-out.

O'Neill, who hails from the nearby town of Kilrea, was a boarder at St Columb's College in Derry City from 1963-68.

Great moments

"We the students used to go on a Saturday playing (gaelic) football in the college field which was actually adjacent to the Brandywell.

"There was a bit of an incline so after we had finished our game we could sit around the college field and at least watch the second half (of the games at the Brandywell).

Chris Sutton
Chris Sutton: on duty in Derry

"There were some great moments in those days and I can remember names like Fay Coyle and other Brandywell heroes.

"I can remember watching them playing European football from the distance of the College itself which was about three-quarters of a mile away.

Financial situation

"But paying to get into the games...no. That wasn't my strength."

Derry City, while based in Northern Ireland play in the Republic of Ireland's Eircom League, were within days of going out of business in August when O'Neill was contacted and asked to bring his team to the Brandywell.

The club's financial situation has slipped alarmingly in recent years less than a decade after they regularly pulled in home crowds in excess of 10,000.

"I wasn't aware of their financial plight at that particular time....

Miles long

"Less than 10 years ago they were averaging 10,000 people and there were queues miles long to get into the Brandywell.

Every single club in the League of Ireland wanted Derry City to come to their ground as often as possible because of their away support."


But paying to get into the games...no. That wasn't my strength
  Martin O'Neill

O'Neill would have "loved" to have taken all his big names to Derry.

"Larsson would have been a fabulous draw but Derry City wanted the game very, very quickly and the only way I could organise the game for as quickly as possible was in an international week."

A plethora of O'Neill relatives are expected to be among the attendance and the Celtic boss jokes that he expects them all to pay their way in.

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01 Oct 00 |  Scot Prem
Larsson saves Celtic record
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