By Patrick Markey
Thousands of miles apart, the cities of Buffalo and Derry would appear to have little in common.
But the upstate New York city and Northern Ireland’s second largest town moved a little closer last week when a group of Irish Americans handed over a check to help the flagging fortunes of the local Derry City Football Club.
Facing bankruptcy earlier this year, the soccer club’s officials sent out hundreds of letters to Irish American and Irish Australian businesses asking for $100 to shore up their future.
One of the letters found its way to the Shannon Pub in Buffalo City and onto the desk of owner and manager Kevin Townsell. Several pub patrons were already part of a summer program bringing Derry children to the U.S. and it seemed natural for the Shannon to get involved.
"We sent them the $100 and asked if we could assist further," Townsell said.
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Last week, representatives from Buffalo visited Derry to hand over a check for nearly $11,000 from a Derry City F.C. benefit night and auction held at the Shannon in October, Townsell said.
The American donation is part of the £200,000 raised to help the club fight off the bailiffs. The club recently held benefit matches against English premier league sides to help raise money.
"It’s unbelievable how a city thousands of miles away came to help Derry City FC," said Eamon McCourt, a club board member and a Guinness representative in Northern Ireland.
"It was a real kick up the backside for us. Here’s this club miles away helping out and we have to get out and help ourselves," he said.
McCourt said the club was now again in a viable financial situation with local business coming onboard with the feel-good climate fostered by the overseas donations.
Sports aside, the Derry City F.C. fund-raiser has also helped bridge the distance between the two towns. Representatives on both sides of the Atlantic see a possible twinning of the two regions with further political and economic ties.
"We’re both sort of forgotten towns, bypassed by tourism and by industry," Townsell said.
"It’s the beginning of a sister city relationship. This is what it has become. Local people in Buffalo might not have known much about Derry, but they know a little more about it now."
More details about Derry City Football Club and contact information can be found on the internet at www.derrycityfc.com.