Derry City boss Ruaidhrí Higgins makes changes to his back-room team

Derry City manager Ruaidhrí Higgins has revamped his back-room team ahead of the 2023 League of Ireland campaign.

Mark McChrystal has left his first team coaching role and moved into a new position at the club as Professional Development Coach, with Conor Loughrey swapping his Opposition Analyst role for McChrystal’s former position with the first team squad. The club's U19 boss Gerald Boyle will take over Loughrey’s former role.

Goalkeeping coach Declan McIntyre has left the club and is replaced by ex-Glentoran, Crusaders, Portadown and Larne keeper Michael Dougherty.

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The 43-year-old was also goalkeeping coach at Inver Park, before leaving the Danske Bank Premiership leaders in 2018 and he spent four years with the Irish Football Association's Elite Performance squads at 'Club NI'.

Derry City manager Ruaidhrí Higgins talks with his new first-team coach Conor Loughrey and assistant Alan Reynolds, during pre-season last year.

For McChrystal, the new role will see him coach academy players on full-time contracts with the Brandywell men but who are unable to train with the first team on a regular basis because they are still in the education system. He will also keep an eye on all the club's on-loan players and see how they're developing at their respective clubs.

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"Obviously at the end of every season you're assessing things. It's important that we reflect on where we are as a club because it's important that we don't stand still," explained Higgins.

"Mark's role has changed but he's still very much part of the first team back-room set-up, as he's been appointed professional development coach.

"Basically when I took stock, the players I found it most difficult to have that ‘hands on’ approach was with our young pros who are maybe still at school and need a connection to the first team. They might need extra sessions and stuff and every player that's contracted to the club deserves a support network. I felt that our lads out on loan probably didn't get enough of that previously.

"Obviously we monitor their progress but Mark will be at their games, meeting them one on one and giving them proper feedback and really, really analysing things in detail. Obviously I’d like to be at some games as well but it’s not always possible and I now know Mark is going to be getting around, building really strong relationships with the players

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"I felt there was a real need to control that area so Mark will be on top of both of those jobs and will remain around the first team set-up.

"Conor Loughrey has moved to first team coach. He's been a revelation and is rapidly developing all the time. He's an excellent young coach, one of the best I've seen.

"He did a great job for me last year and spent much of last season coaching with us anyway, so it's another step for him.

"Gerald Boyle will also work with the U19s but will take on the Opposition Analyst role, so it will be a busy time for him.

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"Michael Dougherty from Belfast has come in to work with the goalkeepers. He's very detailed and analytical. All the feedback I've got from people who've worked with him has been excellent.

"He's a keen student of the game, always looking for information and keen to give you information. I don't know him that well yet, but having had a few chats with him recently, I like his ideas and his thought process. I think he'll fit into the group seamlessly.

"Declan McIntyre has obviously moved on but he was a fantastic servant for the club. He gave great service and was very popular at the club as well, so we wish him all the best moving forward.

"The rest of the staff remain the same and we're happy with how things are because there will be a few different roles and different voices, which is important."

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As for McChrystal he’s looking forward to his new roles.

"It's something I'm genuinely looking forward to; in fact I've already started the work,” admitted the Derry man.

"I've had quite a few roles over the last number of years at Derry City, but this one is definitely different. It will be busy, that's for sure, but I'm happy with that.

"We have a number of young contracted players now and with school and other commitments, they don't get much chance to train with the senior squad.

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"My job is to ensure that there is a clear pathway for these lads between the Academy and the senior squad.

"I'll also be on the road to look after our players who are currently out on loan. It's important that we monitor their progress but also ensure that we provide a proper support network as well.

"It's something the club needs and I'm confident that it will benefit everyone in the long run."