Derry City manager Ruaidhrí Higgins expects tighter Premier Division title race this season

​RUAIDHRÍ Higgins is anticipating this season's Premier Division title race to be one of the closest and most competitive in recent memory.
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​The Derry City boss knows he will be heavily scrutinised in his third full season in charge and expected to get closer to delivering that elusive league title after bringing in Pat Hoban and Daniel Kelly from Dundalk in the close season.

That's easier said than done when the teams in and around Derry have also invested heavily as they all bid to get closer to 'serial winners' Shamrock Rovers who are seeking a record-breaking fifth title in succession.

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Derry finished seven points behind the Dubliners last season after 36 games and 13 was the difference the previous year. So the gap is closing but Higgins knows after two years of second placed finishes and the continued investment from the chairman, Philip O'Doherty, the next step on the ladder is to end that long wait for the title dating back to 1997.

The club are certainly in the best position yet going into the 2024 campaign after a fruitful pre-season and the pressure has certainly increased. However, Higgins believes 'pressure is a privilege' as his Derry team have earned the weight of expectation.

"I've been here now over two-and-a-half years and I know how it works," said the City boss. "I'm not stupid. I can deal with that. I've dealt with worse in my life so I can deal with that.

"Pressure is a privilege because you know that you're competing at the right end of the table. I know people want to take the next step, no more than myself and all we can do is give everything to try and achieve that.

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"However, we're coming up against some very, very good squads of players in the league and we're there to be shot at now as well.

Ruaidhrí Higgins, manager of Derry City FC. Photo: George SweeneyRuaidhrí Higgins, manager of Derry City FC. Photo: George Sweeney
Ruaidhrí Higgins, manager of Derry City FC. Photo: George Sweeney

"The natural progression and what everyone will want is to go and win a league. That's a lot easier said than done. We're coming up against a team who are serial winners and not only that, there are four or five other clubs who will fancy their chances of being in the same situation as us who have invested heavily. We're not the only team that has invested by the way.

"I know what goes on at every single club in the league. We have a very successful chairman in business and it gets highlighted a lot more here. Don't get me wrong he's been fantastic and has invested extremely heavily in the club but there's other clubs who have invested heavily.

"And if you look at the two clubs who have come up, Galway and Waterford, I think this will be the most competitive league in a long, long time. I really do believe that.

"It was competitive last year but I think it's going to be more competitive this year. There will be five or six clubs who will feel they can get closer to Rovers as well as us.”