Declan Devine has faith in Derry City's youth development 'project'

DECLAN DEVINE admits it’s difficult watching his former Derry City players strut their stuff at Dundalk but he’s focussed on developing a new generation of Brandywell stars this season.

Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 1:06 pm
Brendan Barr made his full senior debut against Shamrock Rovers.

Patrick McEleney, Michael Duffy, Greg Sloggett, Peter Cherrie and Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe all return to Brandywell tonight with the Lilywhites as both teams seek a first win of the campaign.

The two teams may share similar starts to the new season but Dundalk have an embarrassment of riches compared to Derry’s youthful squad.

Devine, who believes his side can compete with the best sides in the league on their day, admits Derry are going in a ‘totally different direction’ with their transfer policy but he’s confident the Brandywell club can keep churning out top young talents.

“When you see the quality of a player like Patrick McEleney coming on at half-time (against St Pat’s) and his natural instinct, without really looking, to hit that ball out to Mickey Duffy, you realise how good a side they are. When you look at Patrick, Mickey, Sloggett, Cherrie and Junior, you just look around and we’ve had so much time with these players over the years but it is what it is. We have a new generation of players now who were trying to take them to the next level.

“We’ve had one transfer window since we went in a different direction, in terms of having 11 or 12 local lads playing at any given time during the course of a game. We have a really young identity about us in terms of (Ronan) Boyce and (Brendan) Barr and don’t forget Jack Malone is only 21 years of age, Nathan Gartside and David Parkhouse both 22, it’s such a young side.

“I think we had three players under the age of 23 against Drogheda. It’s only one window we’ve had to build a squad and we know we’re light but we’re content because we want to promote our own players, that’s where we are as a club.

“That doesn’t mean we’re not in the market for winning football matches,” he insisted.

Despite a five game winless run ahead of tonight’s match, Devine is confident the club is going in the right direction with its onus on developing young players rather than a quick fix.

“I speak to people who I really respect in the game and people who are in the game at a high level, they watch our games and see what we’re trying to do. We’re very young. Our captain is 22 years of age. We have to continue to do what we’re doing. I see what they do on a daily basis and we’re all hurting but we have to stay positive and make sure the project we’re trying to work on and the brand of football we want is developed further.”

Both teams are seeking their first win of the season and Devine warned his players must eradicate the defensive errors which have cost them of late.

“We’ve got to be better and make sure we don’t give ourselves a mountain to climb. What you’re finding with the teams that are winning, they’re not giving away anything soft.

“They’re hanging in hard games. We’re under no illusions as to how hard it’s going to be against Dundalk.

“We’ve got to be better in our attacking principles. You’re seeing fits and starts of how we want to play but we’ve got to be more creative and ask more questions of the opposition in the final third. We’ve also got to tighten up and make sure we’re a bit harder to play against in terms of the transitions.

“We certainly want more points than what we have and want to be better but there’s no panic here

“There’s nothing in the league that I’m afraid of but ultimately we’ve got to get better opportunities to win.”

Derry might be occupying the bottom spot in the league at present but Devine doesn’t believe there’s much between any of the teams in the division this season.

“I look around the league and Longford almost stole something from Shamrock Rovers, Finn Harps and Sligo, there’s nothing in the game. Bohemians had a free-kick off the post away to

Waterford and a tap-in off the rebound. There’s absolutely nothing in any of the games this year.

“It’s difficult for us to be sitting where we are but you can feel the positivity walking into the Brandywell. The boys are doing so much to try and fix this.”