DERRY CITY’S priority may be centred on attracting new faces to the Brandywell, but team boss, Stephen Kenny, is also mindful of the importance of retaining the services of those players currently under contract.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
Having agreed terms on an extension to his current contract, experienced goalkeeper, Gerard Doherty (29), will put pen to paper this week on a deal which will keep him at his home town club until the end of the 2012 season at least.
Doherty, a native of the Creggan area, was sold to Derby County as a teenager for £30,000 - even before he made his Derry City first team debut - and after a seven years stint with regular Welsh League champions, TNS, the player eventually returned home in 2008.
An ever-present in the team since then, Doherty is highly respected within the club’s support base and, indeed, his manager remains a major admirer of the talents of his No. 1 custodian.
Kenny pointed to his keeper’s selection on the Airtricity League team panel which played Manchester United last season in the Aviva Stadium, despite Doherty plying his trade in the First Division.
And the Dubliner was hopeful that his keeper would again be selected for the same team which would be involved in a high profile tournament involving Manchester City, Inter Milan and, possibly, Athletico Madrid in late July.
“Provided he gets off to a good start in the Premier Division, I think Gerard would be well placed to be selected for the same squad this season,” said Kenny last night.
“He’s well capable of that given his determination and his strong character. He’s been hugely important for us, particularly last season, and his dominance of the No. 1 jersey has nothing to do with the fact that he’s from Derry,” insisted the Dubliner.
“I signed him from TNS and, I must confess, I did that without seeing too much of him. However, Gerard’s importance in us winning the First Division cannot be over-stated - a quality goalkeeper in any squad always makes a significant difference.
“The goalkeeping position can be very difficult to fill, so if you get a good one, it’s vitally important that you try to keep him and I’m delighted that we’ve managed to do just that.”
It’s also understood that Derry are seeking to add another goalkeeper to the squad as last season’s deputy, Eugene Ferry, is believed to have rejected a new contract, the Creggan man heavily involved in his final examinations at a Liverpool University this year.
Doherty, therefore, will return to pre-season training this Friday when the Derry City squad will be fitness-tested indoors at the Bishop’s Field, Kenny and his coaching staff interested to assess their players’ fitness levels after what has been a lengthy break.
And it will be a youthful squad which will report to the Central Drive venue with players such as Adam Clarke, Darren Coyle and Ryan McBride, among others, attempting to stake a claim for places in at least six pre-season fixtures following a three days training camp in the Dublin area during the first week of February.
Trip to Finn Park
The first of the pre-season matches is expected to be staged at Finn Park in Ballybofey on Sunday afternoon, February 6th, provided Finn Harps can facilitate that date, that match forming part of the transfer which saw Stephen McLaughlin arrive at the Brandywell over the Christmas period.
Derry will also travel to Longford Town while home matches have already been finalised against Salthill Devon and Monaghan United.
“At this stage, the Finn Harps game hasn’t been officially confirmed, but we would expect that to be sorted out before the end of the week,” added Kenny. “In all, I would expect to have a minimum of six pre-season fixtures and all those involved in the first team panel will be presented with opportunities during those games.
“Even though we’ve moved up to the Premier Division after what was a brilliant season in the First Division, we will maintain the same philosophy as adopted last season in relation to wages etc.
“Obviously, we hope to build on last year’s success and we will be seeking improvement from those players who made their senior debuts in the First Division. Personally, I don’t think the club is ready yet to accommodate players from outside the jurisdiction, relocating to the city. We are working hard on our youth system, attempting to produce young players and we must continue to do just that,” declared the Dubliner.