Devine the man to steady Derry ship

Article by Kieran Burke - @KieranBTS

 Could a Declan Devine return be on the cards at Derry City? Image via  Derrycityfc.net

Could a Declan Devine return be on the cards at Derry City? Image via Derrycityfc.net

Despite only leaving his post as Derry City manager on Saturday afternoon, already speculation and media reports are rife with names of potential successors to Kenny Shiels for the “Candystripes” hot-seat. Jim Magilton, Declan Devine and Ian Baraclough appear to be the three most prevalent potential candidates to fill the top job at the Brandywell Stadium. Despite the many clear and challenging issues that come with being the manager of Derry City Football Club, the Red & White Army is clearly still an attractive prospect to oversee and in those three names there are plenty of qualities to excite City supporters. Social media isn’t always the best platform to gauge opinion off of but in this case it is former Sligo boss and current Northern Ireland under-21 manager, Baraclough that appears to be the name most touted by the passionate Derry fanbase.

A league, cup and Setanta Cup winner during his time in the West of Ireland, it is obvious why Derry City supporters are eyeing up the former Scunthorpe boss as their next manager. However, the circumstances surrounding Baraclough’s arrival at Sligo in 2012 and the potential circumstances he would face as Derry City boss in 2019 could not be more contrasting.

Having gone through a period of resurgence under ultra-popular manager Paul Cook, Sligo Rovers had tasted success in form of the FAI Cup in 2010 & 2011 as well as lifting the league cup during that time (2010). As a result of this golden time in the “Bit O’Red’s” history, Cook earned himself a move to English football as manager of Accrington Stanley but despite the obvious blow of losing their inspirational “gaffer”, the next man in, Baraclough, would find a squad full of talent and experience at his disposal. Names such as Gary Rogers, Alan Keane, Jason McGuinness, Joey N’Do, Danny North and Mark Quigley meant the main parts of the jigsaw were already in place for the new boss.

Compare that to Derry City of present and the “Candystripes” have already said their goodbyes to the likes of Rory Hale, Darren Cole and Gavin Peers, while star-men Aaron McEneff, Ger Doherty and Jamie McDonagh are all being linked with moves away from the Brandywell. To put it quite simply, there maybe nothing but remnants of a playing squad for the next manager to work with upon his arrival. Now, of course that does mean the possibility to work of a clean slate and put a personal stamp on the team is open to the new man in charge, however this is where Baraclough falls down as a potential candidate to replace Kenny Shiels.

Baraclough’s current work involves keeping tabs on the very best Northern Irish talent coming through and while Derry City could of course make very good use of this knowledge, Baraclough’s lack of awareness regarding current League of Ireland players could prove to be a major stumbling block in attempting to build a squad capable of competing at the highest level next season. Compare that to former Derry boss, Declan Devine who not only has a depth of knowledge on the current state of the league, given his regular work as a pundit for RTE, but the man who led Derry to FAI Cup glory in 2012 also has a huge passion for local talent and his arrival may help somewhat in rebuilding badly damaged bridges with local junior clubs, after Kenny Shiels recent comments in the media prior to his departure as Derry boss.

Jim Magilton falls into a similar bracket to Baraclough, in fact he is probably the weakest of the three names given the fact he has never managed a team in the League of Ireland. Currently working as an elite performance director for the IFA, Magilton would also have strong potential to identify promising youngsters coming through in the six counties, but with his most recent managerial stint coming six-years ago in Australia as head coach of Melbourne Victory, an extremely unsuccessful stint at that, it is somewhat difficult to understand why the former number two to Michael O’Neill at Shamrock Rovers is even in conversation to replace Shiels, who brought about two European qualifications and a major trophy success in his three-seasons with the “Candystripes”.

Looking back now it is also hard to understand why Devine was removed from his post as Derry City manager in the first place. With a fifth place finish, FAI Cup success and an unfortunate Setanta Sports Cup final defeat in 2012 under his belt following his debut season, Devine led Derry on a ten-game unbeaten run early on in the 2013 league campaign, resulting in a top of the table position until reigning champions Sligo defeated their rivals in the osecond series of games. Talk of the title had begun to emerge on Foyleside but a place in Europe would have to do in the end for Devine and his charges. In a sign of a very different Derry City to the current set-up, Devine was harshly sacked at the end of the season….Oh how the “Candystripes”, who finished third from bottom this term, would give for European qualification now!

With the likes of Dundalk, Cork City, Shamrock Rovers and even new boys Waterford all leaving City behind in terms of financial clout, European football is no longer the guarantee it had appeared to be for Derry City for many seasons. With so many player departures in recent times there is a feeling among some Derry supporters that the clubs owner may now row back on his spending, given the fact Derry are struggling to keep pace with the elite, despite running off huge financial losses to try and remain competitive.

If that scenario was to come into play for next season then it is quite obvious why these three candidates are being highlighted, given their strong coaching backgrounds, with all three working at elite levels within the IFA in recent years. However, even the most talented of young players can struggle to adapt to the rough and tumble of League of Ireland football and with a sense of strong negativity surrounding the Derry camp in recent months, a slow start in the league next season may see supporters frustrations rise. Already this year there have been altercations between the clubs hierarchy and its passionate supporters, with some fans boycotting the clubs European tie at home to Dinamo Minsk in a row over ticket prices. While such an event may seem relatively unimportant, the bad feeling carried over from the European fiasco was evident throughout the season and fan relations will have to be better managed next season.

Appointing someone held in such high regard by the fans as Declan Devine, a man who was born in and played for Derry City, could help rebuild the sort of connection always associated with the fans at the “Randy Brandywell” and the clubs players and officials down the years. Declan “Fabio” O’Brien spoke last week on Soccer Republic about going to the old Brandywell Stadium in the past as a player and absolutely hating it but like many clubs who move to new homes find, opponents are now enjoying playing in the new surroundings of a state of the art stadia with top class facilities. Despite a fantastic run of form following the opening of the new ground, the term “Fortress Brandywell” has now well and truly vanished, at least for the time being, and it is crucial that the next man in, whoever it maybe, makes the Brandywell the feared venue it once was. Taking all the chips into account and you get the feeling that Declan Devine is the man most likely to pull that off.