City of Derry Rugby Football club was established in 1881 – although there is evidence that rugby football was played in the city before that date.
The first trophy won by City of Derry was the Irish Provincial Town’s Cup in 1882/83 season – a feat to be repeated seven times by 1900. In the 1900’s the club struggled in organization and playing strength and withdrew from the senior league in 1907 – not to re-enter that league for nearly sixty years. In the 1920’s the club played at Duncreggan and then at the rectory field in the Waterside, which was its home for nearly thirty years. The emergence of the North West league renewed interest in rugby football with the club winning the Town’s Cup on two occasions in the mid-thirties. During the war years the club survived through the enthusiasm of a few members. The club celebrated it 75th anniversary in 1957 and decided to seek its own grounds and build a pavilion. This it did in 1960 when it acquired land at Branch Road. In 1965 the club opened its new pavilion and three pitches and with the club in full gear attained senior status following the recommendation of the Butler Committee in 1966. This was the era that saw the emergence of one of the club’s most distinguished players – Ken Goodall who became a British Lion and gained 19 caps for Ireland, thus following in the footsteps of the legendary Noel Henderson another British Lion who gained 40 caps for Ireland.
The club retained its senior status until 1977/78 when it was relegated to division two of the Ulster League. These were dark days for the club – with two pavilions being destroyed following bomb attacks in 1979/80 the club showed tremendous spirit and Ian Crowe earned promotion to division one of the Ulster league and thus regained its senior status. In 1992 the club decided to sell Branch Road to the I.D.B. and move to Judge’s Road – the clubs present home. A fine clubhouse was built, along with playing pitches, an all-weather pitch for hockey and a cricket square. This was the re-birth of City of Derry cricket Club and arrival of ladies hockey – Priorians Hockey Club. During 2000, the engineered 1st XV pitch had flood lights added and plans are currently under way to provide a second flood lit engineered pitch and a flood lit engineered training area. City of Derry 1st XV are currently in Division 2C of the All Ireland League and enjoyed one of our best seasons in 1999/2000 when we won both the Ulster League and Senior Cup and pushed for promotion in the AIL throughout the season, finishing a creditable sixth place.
City of Derry have always strived to have a good youth policy and during 1996/97, the club persuaded Derry City Council to fund a Youth Development Officer (YDO) for rugby in the city and surrounding areas. Great inroads were made by the YDO who extended the experience of rugby beyond the two grammar schools to all secondary schools in the city as well as adjacent areas of Strabane and Co. Donegal. The IRFU recognised the success of Youth Development in the North West and set up a regional office in L’Derry which was officially opened by the Ulster Branch president in November 1997 and a regional Development Officer (RDO) was appointed on a three year contract and based in the L’Derry Office. Our Club has an experienced Public Relations Office who established good links with local TV, Radio and Press. The level of cover by our local television and local radio (Radio Foyle and Highland Radio) has been excellent with live coverage of 1st XV matches and post match interviews live on air. All Local newspapers devote several pages each week to rugby previews and match reports with photographs.
The Club prides itself in its progressive spirit which has been instrumental in its growth and development over the past 120 years, and is currently well prepared to face the many fresh challenges which the ever changing game of rugby union will provide in the future.