Dublin aiming to call a halt to Derry’s runaway train

Mickey Harte’s men are unbeaten this season while the Dubs have never won in Celtic Park and have only won once in five games in Derry

The Dubliners and the Dubs might have somewhat different takes on Derry.

For while the Irish folk balladeers have over the years belted out many warm renditions of The Town I Loved So Well, the capital’s footballers have had little to sing and dance about following performances in Derry.

Dublin have never won a competitive match against the Oak Leafers in Celtic Park. Okay, they’ve only played them in the Derry city venue twice – losing in 2014 and 2023 – but the Dubs have struggled elsewhere in the county too.

In five away league matches to Derry, the Dubs have picked up just one victory – a 0-15 to 2-6 win in Bellaghy in 1994 – but there were also league losses at that same venue in 1983 and 1988.


Dublin return to Celtic Park this Saturday hoping to make it third time lucky, but they will be coming up against the form team in the country – Derry have played eight games (between McKenna Cup and National League) this season and boast a 100 per cent winning return.

Mickey Harte has already got his hands on silverware with that McKenna Cup triumph and right now they are in pole position for a league final spot. Derry are four points clear at the top of the Division One table on eight points with their nearest challengers, Dublin, Mayo, Tyrone and Kerry, all on four points after four rounds.

“Next weekend obviously brings a very different challenge up in Derry,” said Dessie Farrell after watching his Dublin side beat Kerry last Saturday. “We got a taste of that last year and they’re probably the in-from team at the minute. That will be a very interesting tussle for us.

“Derry is a great place to go, there’s a great atmosphere up there, they’re very passionate. We’re playing a team cock of the walk at the moment, playing some excellent football, and they are really well-conditioned. So, it’s going to be a tough one, an interesting one, we have to embrace that challenge to see what we can deliver.”

And when it comes to Celtic Park, Dublin haven’t delivered as of yet. In March 2014 Brian McIver’s Derry beat Jim Gavin’s Dublin 1-16 to 0-13 on the banks of the Foyle.

Then in March of last year, a late Brendan Rogers point earned Derry a 1-11 to 0-13 victory over Dublin in front of 12,077 at Celtic Park– the final whistle sparking a pitch invasion of celebratory home supporters.

But those two previous Celtic Park meetings were both followed several weeks later by league finals at Croke Park where the Dubs sent Derry back up the road severely chastened.

The 2014 Division One league decider ended with the Dubs handing out a 3-19 to 1-10 lesson to the Ulster outfit – something they took very much on board because when the sides met at Parnell Park in 2015 Derry parked the bus and settled for a 0-8 to 0-4 loss.

And just weeks after last year’s meeting at Celtic Park, Dublin hit Derry for four goals in the Division Two league final at Croke Park to chalk up a 4-6 to 0-11 win.

But Celtic Park has become something of a fortress for Derry in recent times, their last league defeat at the venue was a loss to Westmeath in 2018.

Farrell is one of the few Dubs to have experienced a league victory in Derry – the current Dublin manager came off the bench and scored a point late on in the 1994 win in front of 7,000 in Bellaghy,

“The lion’s Den – namely Bellaghy – held no terrors for Dublin yesterday. They met the All-Ireland champions, Derry, on their home ground in the Church and General National Football League and scored a great victory,” wrote Paddy Downey in The Irish Times the following morning.

“This result was remarkable for another reason. It was Derry’s first defeat in competitive football since they lost to Donegal in a quarter-final of the League last April. And it was only their third defeat in 26 games of league competition since the start of 1991.”

Derry were a force then. They are now again.

The highest number of scores Derry have conceded in any of their four league games so far this season is 13. Dublin’s highest concession has been 15 scores, while they also shipped 13 scores on two occasions.

Derry have conceded three goals in their four games (two v Kerry, one v Galway) while Dublin have had green flags raised against them in all their matches so far – three v Monaghan, one v Mayo, one v Roscommon, one v Kerry.

It remains to be seen if Farrell will have any further reinforcements available for Saturday’s trip to Derry but Dublin do have injury worries over defender Eoin Murchan, who limped off during the second half of the win over Kerry.

Dublin’s League record in Derry

February 1983: Derry 1-11 Dublin 1-10, Bellaghy

October 1988: Derry 1-7 Dublin 0-6, Bellaghy

March 1994: Dublin 0-15 Derry 2-6, Bellaghy

April 2014: Derry 1-16 Dublin 0-13, Celtic Park

March 2023: Derry 1-11 Dublin 0-13, Celtic Park

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Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning is a sports journalist, specialising in Gaelic games, with The Irish Times