Stephen Kenny expects Declan Devine to bounce back from Derry City exit
IRELAND BOSS Stephen Kenny believes Declan Devine paid the penalty for the significant turnaround of players at Derry City last season.
Devine, who was assistant to Kenny at both Derry City and Dunfermline, bid farewell to the Brandywell club last week, just six games into the 2021 Airtricity League campaign.
It ended his second spell as manager of his hometown club but Kenny backed the Creggan man to bounce back and believes Devine will already be looking forward to his ‘next challenge’.
“Declan has had two spells managing Derry now,” said the Dubliner. “He won the FAI Cup and has given everything of himself during a tough period.
“He’s an excellent coach and I’m sure he will take time out but I wish him well in his next position. Management in football can be like a series of chapters and there’s very few who continue on an upward curve. It can be quite ruthless overall but I’m sure Declan will look forward to his next challenge.”
Kenny reckons Devine struggled to replace key players from his successful 2019 season and that lack of continuity in his squad affected his ability to improve the team. With his budget significantly cut ahead of the 2021 season, Kenny felt it was always going to be a tough test.
“He built a team for the first year and then lost a lot of players. When you lose players it’s really hard to replace them. It’s very hard to get the quality.
“To be fair to Declan Devine, in his first season he did very well in his second spell but then lost a lot of the good players that he had. He lost (Greg) Sloggett, Junior (Ogedi-Uzokwe) and (David) Parkhouse who went back to England and Jamie McDonagh who looked like a good player.
“He lost players like that. I think what supporters probably want to connect with, not just at Derry but at other clubs right throughout the country, there’s a whole different team the following year and then a whole different team the year after that. With players coming and going at a rapid rate it’s difficult to build a connection between supporters and players or build that rapport. That’s sometimes needed within the community to excel.”
Devine admitted he didn’t like managing behind closed doors and claimed football was ‘rubbish’ without fans in the stadium. For such a passionate manager who feeds off the emotions of supporters on a matchday, Devine insisted he wasn’t enjoying football as much as he did during that 2019 campaign when his team thrived in front of full houses at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium.
Ireland boss, Kenny, who sat alongside Devine at Oriel Park to watch the recent Dundalk draw against St Pat’s, agrees that football simply isn’t the same without the supporters in the grounds.
“I think right throughout football, it just isn’t the same without support. Similarly with the international team, we haven’t had fans at any matches. We brought 15 players in and 13 of those young players made their competitive debut but they’ve not experienced a full stadium or even half a stadium.
“When you dream of playing for Ireland, or you dream of playing for Derry, you want to come in and walk into that atmosphere, whether it’s a packed Brandywell or playing for your country at a full Aviva Stadium where the fans are really passionate. That hasn’t existed.
“You can hear the echoes of the players’ voices around the pitch and that’s been quite surreal.”