Derry City manager Stephen Kenny was over the moon when his side booked place in the Europa League qualifying rounds next season on Friday evening.
The Candy Stripes drew 1-1 with St. Patrick’s Athletic in Richmond Park and Stephen McLaughlin’s second half equaliser was enough to secure a European football spot next season. Derry have one more game remaining; they’ll finish off the 2011 campaign at home to Bohemians next Friday evening.
“This season we were involved in three competitions [Premier Division, FAI Cup and League Cup] but next season we’ll be involved in five [Premier Division, Europa League, Setanta Cup, FAI Cup and League Cup],” said Kenny proudly. “That’s good progress.”
Less than 12 months ago Kenny’s side resided in the First Division of Irish football but were propelled back to the Premier Division after they won the league title after only one season away.
The 2011 season captured the imagination of the Derry City fans and players alike and up until last week’s defeat to league leaders Shamrock Rovers, the Brandywell club were in with a shout of becoming the first team to ever win the Premier Division title one year after lifting the First Division trophy.
“I think that the fact that we have come so far in such a short space of time is down to everyone involved with this club.
“From the backroom staff to the volunteers to the fans - everyone has been brilliant this season and I am delighted for everyone involved that the name Derry City will be in the hat for the Europa League draw next season.”
He added: “Only two years ago we were in the mire and now this season along we have won the League Cup and qualified for Europe - credit has to go to the players.”
Although Kenny was keen to praise everyone involved with Derry City, he reserved special acclaim for his squad of players.
“The players at this club have poured their heart and soul into every single game this season.
“They only get paid 40 weeks of the year and their dedication and professionalism at training is second to none.”
Although clearly delighted that his team had qualified for European football next season Kenny conceded that Friday night’s performance against St. Pat’s was not one of his team’s best displays.
“I though they [St. Patrick’s Athletic] were more physical and looked more comfortable on the ball than we did but that’s football.
“I previous games we have played amazing well and only drawn the game so you have to take the rough with the smooth.
“I thought Stephen McLaughlin’s goal was a credit to him because it showed real cunning and vision to see an opening and Stephen’s goal essentially means that Derry City will be in Europe next season.
“There’s no substitute for a club like Derry City being involved in European football and I am sure that it’s an experience that the fans and players will relish.”