DESPITE the absence of a new manager, Derry City yesterday confirmed that top goalkeeper, Gerard Doherty and stylish midfielder, Ruaidhri Higgins, had signed new deals.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
Doherty, considered the best keeper in the Premier Division had one year of his contract remaining and the 29-year-old has agreed a three year extension, keeping him at the Brandywell until the end of the 2015 season at least.
Higgins, who was out of contract at the end of last season, has signed a new two year deal which sees the playmaker dismiss rumours of joining Irish League club, Glentoran.
“We’ve been working hard behind the scenes this week and with no manager in place, we feel it’s important to open negotiations with players both in and out of contract if only to set their minds at ease,” said chairman, Philip O’Doherty.
“Gerard Doherty has been a long standing servant to Derry City and I’m sure our supporters would agree that his performances over the last two years have been outstanding.
“We’ve agreed a new contract which gives Gerard a three year extension and we’ve also put an end to speculation that Ruaidhri (Higgins) would be moving to the Irish League. Ruaidhri’s contract was up at the end of last season and he’s now signed a new two year deal,” confirmed the chairman.
And Mr. O’Doherty also dismissed suggestions that the Derry City budget was “recessionary.”
He said: “According to the F.A.I., our budget is the third largest in the Premier Division, behind Shamrock Rovers and Sligo Rovers. Therefore, to suggest that the new budget was recessionary is not correct.
“Indeed, if we can secure the prizemoney for our third placed finish and gain entry into the Europa League, then it’s possible that we will leapfrog Sligo Rovers into the second largest budget in the league,” he declared.
Returning to the appointment of a new manager, Mr. O’Doherty said seven people had expressed an interest in the position to date and he expected more to come forward once the holiday period ended.
“We’ve very happy with the list we have compiled and it would appear that Derry City remains an attractive proposition for the top managers in the league.
“A few years ago our reputation had been tarnished, but I think our rebirth has captured the imagination again and our reputation as a top club with talented players has returned.”
But when pressed again to name names or, indeed, confirm or deny that individuals such as Ian Foster, Sean Connor, Peter Hutton, Paul Hegarty or Declan Devine had applied for the job, Mr. O’Doherty refused.
“Some of those individuals who have approached us are actually under contract with other clubs, some are out of contract and I don’t believe it would be professional of me to disclose the identity of those competing for the manager’s job.”
He agreed that the timing of Stephen’s resignation couldn’t have been worse, but the chairman was determined to move on.
“The timing of Stephen’s departure could have been better but, then again, we always knew that once Michael O’Neill left Shamrock Rovers our telephone would be ringing,” continued Mr. O’Doherty.
“We opted not to stand in Stephen’s way and we knew he would be considered the favourites for that particular job.
“Everything that could have been done to keep him, was done. Had we received confirmation that we would be competing in Europe, then that might have made Stephen’s decision to leave all the more difficult. We extended his contract but, in the end, he opted to leave us so now it’s a case of Derry City moving on.
“Any new manager taking charge will realise that we are a club on top of our budget and any additional finances brought in, goes straight into the manager’s budget, so there’s nothing recessionary about it.
“Our preference would probably be for a manager who is experienced in League of Ireland football but, then again, that’s not a necessity given the recent success of Paul Cook at Sligo and, to a lesser extent, Ian Foster at Galway.
“One or two individuals from outside the League of Ireland have applied for the job, but we want a new manager who will hit the ground running.
“We’re hopeful of getting our pre-season campaign started in mid-January, four weeks before our first competitive match.
“We have added another player to the seven in contract and I’m confident that more will be confirmed in the days ahead.
“The future of Derry City continues to be bright, our supporters have already impressed us with our sales of season tickets for the new campaign and, as chairman, I’m confident we will appoint a suitable successor to Stephen Kenny and produce the performances we are capable of in what’s expected to be a pretty hectic 2012 campaign.”
Not a Dictatorship?
On behalf of the Board of Directors, Mr. O’Doherty extended a successful and happy New Year to all Derry City fans who, he hoped, would continue to support the local club in the year ahead.
“While delighted that the Board of Directors will remain in place in the interests of continuity, I’m doubly delighted to be elected chairman for another year which goes to prove that the club remains democratic and not run by a dictatorship,” laughed the local businessman.