DERRY City’s Board of Directors have extended Declan Devine’s full-time contract at the Brandywell until the end of the 2014 season and the Creggan man’s first response was to extend his thanks to his backroom team.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
Having taken over the managerial reins following the defection of Stephen Kenny to Shamrock Rovers last Christmas, Devine faced a baptism of fire in management given that four of Derry City’s top players had departed for pastures new.
The Premier Division’s top scorer and the “Player of the Year,” Eamon Zayed left for football in the Far East while Derry’s quality left flank - James McClean (Sunderland) and Danny Lafferty (Burnley) - secured full-time professional contracts in England. Right winger, Gareth McGlynn left for Australia and Messrs. Devine and assistant, Paul Hegarty, certainly faced a challenge.
And while the new management team did well to attract players such as Rory Patterson, Stewart Greacen, Simon Madden, Dermot McCaffrey and - during the campaign - Conor Murphy, few would have predicted the horrendous injury crisis which almost brought the Brandywell club to its knees.
Kevin Deery and Greacen both went under the surgeon’s knife in knee operations while Barry Molloy, Rory Patterson, Stephen McLaughlin and Ruaidhri Higgins all experienced prolonged spells on the sidelines with the management team forced to turn to the club’s youth players.
Step forward Ryan Curran, Barry McNamee, Michael Barr, Michael Duffy and Caoimhinn Bonner from the youth ranks as Derry battled their way through vital games, at times taking points despite the odds.
And Devine insists he couldn’t have got through the campaign without the loyal support and dedication of his hard-working backroom team.
“Paul Hegarty was always at my side in my first season as a manager and, thankfully, with his support and valuable contribution, we got through it and to play our final game winning the FAI Cup Final in the Aviva Stadium was really special for us all,” declared Declan.
“It was a great experience for the players and all those who travelled down to watch the game. We were thrilled to secure a major trophy in Irish football in our first season at the helm and I think that experience was invaluable,” added Devine.
“We’ve always maintained that if our first choice team was available, then we could compete favourably with all the top teams in the league and I think our final league and cup matches, with wins over Dundalk, Shelbourne, St. Pat’s and Shamrock Rovers proved us right on that front.
“But to be rewarded with the club’s fifth FAI Cup victory in the Aviva Stadium was something else and while Paul and I certainly were thrilled to have led the team to Dublin, I think the backroom staff and our supporters were particularly pleased with the 3-2 result after extra-time and, of course, our second half performance which saw us deservedly win the match.
“It was a very special day for us all but now that it’s over, I think it’s very important that I acknowledge the valuable help and assistance which I depended on heavily throughout the season.
“As I’ve said, Paul (Hegarty) stood by me as my assistant offering guidance, support and advice when required and for that I’m extremely thankful,” continued Devine.
“I would have been lost without him and while Paul has certainly played no small part in our success, Colum O’Neill must have been the busiest physiotherapist in the league last season - north or south of the border.
“Due to our near disastrous injury crisis, Colum was constantly hard at work on a weekly basis, with the treatment room rarely empty. Without doubt, he put in the most difficult shift in his career attempting to get players fit for vital matches and just when he seemed to succeed with one player, another limped off the pitch which kept him busy for another three or four weeks.
“It was a difficult time for him and it got to the stage that I worried every time he entered the manager’s office, as he had relayed so much bad news during what was an horrendous time on the injury front.”
Devine also thanked the club’s doctor, Joe McAvoy, who also also kept hard at work on the injury front while his most recent recruit, former Derry City midfielder, Marty McCann, had also made a significant input following his arrival.
“Marty’s contribution has also been top notch and his coaching ability is second to none. He has been excellent when working with the players and his involvement has allowed me to concentrate on other issues off the coaching field which I certainly welcomed. Our players have taken to Marty and his methods and I think he introduced a refreshing change to our training schedules. He gets married in a few weeks and may I, on behalf of all the staff and players, wish him good luck,” smiled Declan.
“Aidy Canney and Philip Johnston have also played integral roles within the backroom staff, duties they accomplish with great professionalism while our coaching staff has also been excellent during the 2012 campaign.
“Our goalkeeping coach, Brian Hutchinson, has made an impact within the first team squad but I can’t praise those involved in our youth team enough. Eddie Seydak, who heads our youth development has pulled out all the stops in identifying and developing our young players who have made such a significant impact when they had to.
“And assisted by John Quigg and Hugh Harkin, this particular trio deserve so much credit for the work they have done. All three certainly put in the hours and I think to watch a young players make his senior debut, gives those guys an absolute superb buzz as they have played their part in bringing such players through.
“They’ve all been exceptional and I think it’s only fitting that their hard work is recognised by everyone associated with Derry City Football Club,” he concluded.