Derry City chairman expects to announce Declan Devine's successor imminently

DERRY CITY chairman Philip O’Doherty says the fear of relegation was behind  his decision to part ways with Declan Devine but revealed he’s preparing to appoint the Creggan man’s successor imminently.

By Simon Collins
Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 7:59 pm
Updated Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 8:02 pm
Declan Devine's successor is expected to be announced over the weekend.
Declan Devine's successor is expected to be announced over the weekend.

The club has worked swiftly to identify a shortlist of potential candidates to take over the Brandywell hotseat and Mr O’Doherty insists time was of the essence as he feared the Candy Stripes would be cut adrift at the bottom.

Devine, who was handed a one-year contract extension last August, registered just two points from 18 available in the opening six matches and Mr O’Doherty claimed the club simply could not afford to lose further ground.

Indeed, after a worrying run of just one win in their last 11 games in all competitions, and despite draws in their last two fixtures against Drogheda and Dundalk, Mr O’Doherty felt the time was right to give someone else a shot at reviving the season ahead of tough trips to Sligo Rovers and Bohemians.

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“I did think about it long and hard and it wasn’t an easy decision but it was the right decision for the football club and for Declan,” he said.

“Obviously it’s extremely stressful to be sitting with two points after six games. We’re very much in a relegation struggle not even a third way into the season.

“We haven’t lost touch with the teams in and around us which is a positive but we need to get a win and more points on the board very quickly. The question was; ‘Do we think Declan could do it or are we better to bring somebody else in?’ Obviously the latter was the decision made.

“It was a decision which could’ve gone either way,” he admitted, “We did play well respectively against Dundalk and it was definitely an improved performance but I still think it’s probably the right decision. I couldn’t leave it that much longer. If we had drawn a few more matches we still wouldn’t be out of the relegation zone and that would’ve made it less attractive to a manager coming in, giving them less games to turn this around.”

Declan Devine and chairman Mr Philip O'Doherty

The Chairman is hoping to fill the vacant managerial post over the weekend and while he refused to identify any contenders for the job, he insists the successful candidate must have the ability to attract the right players to the club.

Ireland Chief Scout and Opposition Analyst, and former Derry midfielder, Ruaidhrí Higgins, Cliftonville manager Paddy McLaughlin and Finn Harps assistant boss, Paul Hegarty have emerged as early frontrunners.

Whoever gets the position, Mr O’Doherty has indicated he will fully back them financially during the summer transfer window but the ideal manager must buy into the club’s youth development policy.

“There is certainly no one appointed at the minute,” he revealed. “We have a few candidates but I can’t really say too much more on that at this moment. Hopefully it will happen pretty quickly because he does need a chance to have a reasonable number of games to turn this around.

“The youth policy is not going to change,” he insisted. “That’s really important. We’ve already had a successful season in terms of young Ronan Boyce coming through and I know Declan has been really positive about him. That policy is not going to change. That has to be done for the future of Derry City Football Club.

“But we’re still looking to challenge and whoever comes in will have enough experience to get the best out of the squad we have and hopefully will be able to strengthen it in the middle of the season as well.

“They’ll be able to attract the right players to the football club. We haven’t done that in enough numbers over the last couple of years.”

“Declan last year was unlucky with a lot of the signings he made,” he continued. “A lot of them were loan signings but it’s very difficult to encourage players to come up north in the middle of a pandemic. Hopefully that’s subsided and we will have Covid nearly beaten by the summer time. Whatever manager comes in, hopefully they will have a better climate to attract new players in and strengthen the squad we have.”

First team coach Mark McChrystal took charge of training on Thursday morning in the absence of Devine and when asked if the new man will be appointed in time for the trip to high flying Sligo tomorrow, Mr O’Doherty stressed the urgency of getting the right man as soon as possible.

“We will hopefully get someone in place over the weekend, that’s the plan. We want someone in as quickly as possible anyway.”

Mr O’Doherty is confident the Board has made the right decision at the right time and claims the new manager’s mission will be to secure European qualification despite the club’s lowly league position.

“It’s not a bad squad the new manager will be inheriting. Obviously the results didn’t reflect that but I think some of the results were also quite unlucky. I certainly think it’s a better squad than two points would indicate.

“We still have a goal of qualifying for Europe but the main goal at the minute is to get out of that relegation zone and stay out of it.

“Last year Sligo lost their first four games before the lockdown and ended up in a European spot so we’re not that much different to Sligo. Sligo are our opponents on Saturday and they’re joint top of the league at the moment so I think it can be achieved but I think it’s better to make a change at this early stage in the season to give a new manager a chance.”

Mr O’Doherty thanked Devine, who returned for a second spell at the club in November 2018, for his service over the past two and a half seasons and wished him all the best in the future.

“I want to thank Declan. It was a difficult season last year and obviously again we were in a relegation fight but it was difficult being manager of a football club in the middle of a pandemic and we wish he had done better in terms of the performances.

“It was still difficult going to work everyday and the main priority was to make sure the staff didn’t either get Covid or spread it in the changing rooms. It was an extremely stressful time last year and it was sort of going that way again this year. That was really the main reason I had to make the decision.”