DECLAN DEVINE had demanded passion and fight from his new-look Derry City team and he got it in bucket loads on Friday night at a packed Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium.
Back in the City hotseat for his second managerial stint, the Creggan man couldn’t have asked for a better start to the new SSE Airtricity League campaign.
It was his 91st game as Derry City boss and it’s clear the fans have bought into his pre-season promise to reconnect with those on the terraces and to bring back an identity to the club.
The Lone Moor Road stadium was filled to capacity as the class of 2019 kicked-off with a comprehensive 3-0 victory over last season’s First Division champions, UCD.
“It’s just class to see the Brandywell like that,” said Devine afterwards. “I just love it. The only other place I’d rather be tonight myself would be in the stand with a red and white scarf on. It is something special when it’s packed like that.
“I’ve enjoyed every second of it. Emotionally it was a big night for myself and the players. A lot of the players were playing in front of a big crowd for the first time so there was a bit of pressure.”
There’s no doubting the pressure which was riding on this result against a team ‘with nothing to lose’, given they travel to a Shamrock Rovers side brimming with confidence this Friday.
So what was his assessment after debut goals from David Parkhouse and Eoghan Stokes and a Conor Kearns own goal handed his impressive City side victory.
“We did quite well,” he said. “We can play better and will play better but I thought we were extremely brave with the ball against a side which can cause real problems.
“They play the right way and it’s not your typical League of Ireland game because they’re so brave in possession and they really have nothing to lose. But full credit to them they asked questions of us.
“I’m delighted all in all. We started a bit sluggish. It was a bit nervy and we wasted possession but I just told them to keep believing in themselves and as long as we work hard we’ll get chances.
“We worked extremely hard and that’s the minimum. We have to get stronger, get fitter and make sure we replicate that feeling we had when we came off that pitch tonight in the weeks to come.
“We could’ve had a few more goals too but the pleasing thing for me was that Peter Cherrie didn’t have a save to make which shows we were relatively solid.
“When you go through the stats tonight you’ll see Parkhouse ran a huge amount of kilometres. Our midfield three were dominant on the ball and dogged in their defending.
“I’m delighted with the way we played but it’s still early days and I need people to continue to back these guys even when things don’t so well.”
Home form will be key in this tough, unforgiving 10 team league which threw up quite a few surprises on opening night.
It’s worth noting there were SEVEN debutantes on the night and three players making their returns to the club.
And Devine is keen to temper expectations, particularly given they face into three difficult games against Rovers (a), Waterford (h) and Cork City (a).
“Every game is important, home and away. We’re not getting carried away. We won tonight against a team which came up last year and we have to go up the gears next week when we go to Tallaght - one of the hardest venues in the country to go to. The following away game is at Cork which is the hardest venue to go to in the country.
“So I just ask people to stay with us. We’re going to give everything to get results in the three games but it’s just one step at a time.”