Philip O'Doherty prepared to invest in Ruaidhri Higgins' Derry City title charge

DERRY CITY Chairman Mr Philip O'Doherty has hailed Ruaidhri Higgins' 'fabulous managerial achievement' this season and promised to back the City boss in the transfer market next year.

By Simon Collins
Monday, 13th September 2021, 6:04 pm
Updated Monday, 13th September 2021, 6:06 pm
Derry City manager, Ruaidhri Higgins will be heavily backed in the next transfer window, according to chairman Philip O'Doherty.
Derry City manager, Ruaidhri Higgins will be heavily backed in the next transfer window, according to chairman Philip O'Doherty.

The former FAI Chief Scout was headhunted by Mr O'Doherty to succeed ex-City boss Declan Devine six games into the current campaign and after just 20 games in charge he has guided Derry from bottom ofthe table to fourth spot with 36 points.

It's been a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for the club who remain in contention for European qualification with 10 games to go and only league leaders Shamrock Rovers have accumulated more points over the same timeframe with 42.

"When Ruaidhri came in we had two points from 18," said the Chairman. "Just imagine if we had him in from the start of the season, we would have been well up there challenging for the league," he claimed.

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The top half of the SSE Airtricity League table after the last 20 games when Ruaidhri Higgins was in charge of Derry City.

"I don't think he will win any awards at the end of the season but it's a fabulous managerial achievement to be able to take that same team and totally change it on its head."

The $2 billion buyout of his E&I Engineering company last Wednesday has elevated the Derry man's financial resources to a new level and he reiterated his ambition to bring a league title back to his hometown club for the first time since 1997.

The signing of Dundalk star Patrick McEleney was the first signal of intent from Mr O'Doherty and the self-made billionaire is confident Higgins is the right man to attract the best players to Brandywell over the next couple of seasons.

And he promised to increase the manager's war chest 'within reason' going into his first full season as Brandywell boss.

"Myself and Ruaidhri have made it clear we want to win the league in the next three years," said Mr O'Doherty. "I think that's a reasonable target. Ruaidhri’s budget has been increased and will be increased again next year.

"Ruaidhri has started really well. I know we've had a tough couple of years with all sorts of setbacks. I keep pointing back to the death of Ryan McBride which knocked the stuffing out of this club.

"It has really been a tough few years with moving out of the Brandywell as well. We've got a bit of stability now and I'm prepared to back him within reason. I think we have this mix now of spending money on the youth and trying to get a really good facility for the youth.

"So we want long term projects, and the short term projects such as qualifying for Europe this year which is a big ask from where we were when Ruaidhri took over. We're not too far away but these next few matches are absolutely vital for us.

"Ruaidhri has a plan he was telling us about and the goals he's set the players in each of the remaining matches as well so hopefully his plans come through."

The imminent arrival of McEleney, who was an interested spectator in the Mark Farren Stand on Friday night, has brought real optimism for the future and without naming potential targets, Mr O'Doherty is confident Higgins will recruit well ahead of next season.

"I think Patrick's at the prime of his career and I would love him to spend the rest of his career at Derry City Football Club. We've made that clear to him so let's see how it goes these next few seasons.

"Ruaidhri's talking to a lot of people," he continued. "He's got his own contacts and both him and Stephen Kenny did a fabulous job identifying players when they were at Dundalk and bought players that most people wouldn't have known about and won so many league championships and had so much European success.

"Ruaidhri basically has learned along with Stephen so hopefully he'll bring that skill of being able to identify players. He's really only had this transfer window where we really didn't do that much.

"He got a couple of players in but at the end of the season we will regroup and he has a plan for next season. It's not 100 per cent finalised yet but I've been very impressed by his thought process and his professionalism in putting that plan together."