Derry City and Strabane District Council have conferred the honour of the Freedom of the City on former City boss Jim McLaughlin, with the ceremony taking place at the Guildhall this evening.
The honour has been conferred on McLaughlin 30 years after he led the Candystripes to the domestic treble in the 1988-89 season. Four years after entering the League of Ireland, City swept all before them domestically as they lifted the League Cup, the League and the FAI Cup.
Derry City and Strabane District Council tonight recognises the achievement of former City boss, Jim McLaughlin with the Freedom of the City.
McLaughlin was in the stands of Oriel recently to see two of his former teams play out a 2-2 draw and it is a fitting honour that the city of his birth, and a city he brought so much joy to, pays tribute to the man.
McLaughlin started his playing career with City in the 1957-58 season but spent most of his playing career in England. He had two spells at both Shrewsbury and Swansea, racking up nearly 300 appearances for the Shrews and over 150 for the Swans during his time there. He also managed 12 caps and 6 goals for Northern Ireland, including a brace against England. He only lost his place in the Northern team to a youngster called George Best.
The Derry man returned to Ireland as player manager at Dundalk and led the Lilywhites to 3 League titles and 3 FAI Cups, including a domestic double. He moved onto Shamrock Rovers in 1983 where the trophies continued to flow, with back to back doubles, as part of the ‘Four in a Row’.
However the challenge to be involved with the fairytale that was Derry City’s return to local football was an irresistible challenge for Jim, and he returned to Derry in 1986 as part of the managerial team with Noel King. After the departure of King, McLaughlin was installed as the manager and led the team to the FAI Cup Final of 1988 which they lost to a hotly disputed penalty.
The next season, there was to be no stopping the Candystripes as they steamrolled the opposition. However it didn’t look that way at the start of the season. Despite adding four of his Shmarock Rovers squad, City stumbled in the early stages of the League Cup. Draws against Finn Harps and Fanad United meant City were depending on other results as they entered the final group game against Sligo.
A 4-2 win, coupled with a draw between Harps and Fanad saw them through to the knock out phases and the rest was history. That wasn’t to say that the season wasn’t without drama, and 30 years on, those who were there to see it can remember many of the pivotal moments of the season. Gauld in nets against Athlone, Coyle’s hatrick on his debut, European football back at the Brandywell, Coady’s signing after the defeat in Cardiff.
However the first statement was an emphatic one, when City went to Dundalk for the final of the League Cup and absolutely destroyed one of the powerhouse teams of the era, 4-0 on their own turf. It was a serious statement, with Healy imperious on the night as City went up 3-0 at the break.
The league form wobbled, with draws at Athlone and King (now at Rovers) bringing his side to Brandywell and snatching a point with ten men. Back when the league worked on reverse fixtures, City put ten past Cobh over two weeks with a 5-0 win in the Brandywell followed up by a 5-2 win away.
Dundalk and City were locked at the top of the table and there was a draw at the Brandywell as the sides couldn’t be separated. It was head to head with the top for most of the next 6 weeks, with Dundalk coming to the Brandywell in late January. It was Coyle and Speak that did the damage for City, with the home side winning 2-0. For many City fans, the Speak goal is the greatest Derry goal since we joined the League of Ireland (1.42 in this clip). Coyle, kills a long ball with a unbelievable touch, nutmegs a Dundalk defender and sprays a curling cross field ball with the outside of this foot to Speak who drives it home.
City were off and running in the FAI Cup with a win over Bohs and followed that up by an easy win over Monaghan. Dundalk and Pats were still on their heels in the League but with Coyle, Speak and Larkin scoring freely, City were still the front runners. The wins kept coming, as City began to see the finish line in sight.
However Rovers were to spoil the party, with a win at Brandywell delaying the title. Whilst they may have put the brakes on the league win, Rovers were not to deny City in the cup. The two sides, with a rich off the field narrative, were drawn in the semi-finals. City completely outclassed Rovers in the first leg, winning 3-0 and then closed out the second leg to make sure the Treble was still on.
The league was wrapped up the following week, with a double from Doolin against Cobh ensuring that City were the first team to win league titles under the auspices of the IFA and the FAI. It was an amazing day at Brandywell, 24 years since City clinched the League – with Fay Coyle leading the line, in 1989 it was Liam in the City colours.
The FAI Cup Final was the final hurdle. After the heartache of 1988, City played out a draw in the first game with Cork City. Cork had the best chance of the game, with Dave Barry hitting a shot which hit the inside of the post and rebounded out. Healy was the hero in the replay, with his goal the difference as City won 1-0.
Less than 4 years after the first game against Home Farm, City had made history. The only team to have held the domestic treble of League Cup, League and FAI Cup. The architect? Jim McLaughlin.
30 years on, the City recognises the achievement, an achievement that has never been equalled. The scenes as the club returned to the city, with crowds gathered around the Guildhall have never been seen since.
It is fitting that it is the Guildhall, the balcony of which played host to that homecoming, is the venue for Jim to receive the Freedom of the City.