Here Michael Kerrigan takes a look at Derry City and how they are set-up for the 2015 SSE Airtricity League season.
Following on from a disappointing 2013 under Declan Devine, the Derry City board appointed Dubliner Roddy Collins as the new manager ahead of last season.
Collins brought in a lot of experienced players to the City squad but they didn’t perform to how Collins would have hoped for and after only eleven matches he was sacked with his assistant Peter Hutton subsequently appointed manager.
Fortunes for the Candystripes initially picked up under Hutton, however a shocking run of form towards the end of the season saw City finish 8th in the league table. The one positive to take from the 2014 season was reaching the FAI Cup final, however City where not to be victorious on this occasion as St.Pat’s won the cup for the first time in 53 years.
In the close-season Peter Hutton has had to cut his budget and this resulted in the club having to release top marksman Rory Patterson. City also lost promising winger Michael Duffy who was sold to Celtic for the small fee of £110,000. Hutton also lost his captain Barry Molloy who turned down a new contract from City to sign for Irish League side Crusaders.
However, Hutton was able to hold on to the majority of his squad as well as bringing in strikers Cillian Morrison and Anthony Elding. Hutton also signed keeper Shaun Patton and midfilder Seanan Clucas.
First Three Fixtures
City have got a tough start to the season with the first three league games seeing them travel to take on newly-promoted Galway United, while they then host league champions Dundalk and the following week the Candystripes travel to take on FAI Cup holders St.Pat’s.
City have always been known for producing top players and the best player currently in the squad is a close call between Patrick McEleney and Barry McNamee. Both players are capable of winning a game on their own and if City are to have a good season then both of them will have to be at the top of their game.
Key Young Player
City have sold a lot of players over the last few years to clubs across the water, most recently Michael Duffy to Celtic and this season the most up and coming player will no doubt be 19-year-old winger Joshua Daniels. Daniels has an abundance of talent and could prove to be a key player for City this season.
Cillian Morrison (Cork City)
Morrison, a former Derry City under-age player has signed back for the club following five years away from the club with stints at UCD and most recently Cork City.
Shaun Patton (Finn Harps)
Patton joins the club from north west rivals Finn Harps. Patton will provide cover to the vastly experienced Gerard Doherty.
Seamus Sharkey (Southern Cross United – Australia)
Like Morrison, Sharkey is back for his second spell as a Candystripe after impressing manager Peter Hutton in pre-season. Sharkey will provide competition to captain Ryan McBride and Aaron Barry at centre-back.
Anthony Elding (Ballinamallard United)
Elding joins the club from Ballinamallard United in the Irish League. Elding is a like for like replacement for striker Rory Patterson, who left the club recently.
Seanan Clucas (Linfield)
Clucas joins from Irish League side Linfield and will be hoping to get his career back on track after returning from England last year.
Ciaran Gallagher (Finn Harps)
After only one season with the Candystripes Gallagher has returned to Finn Harps after failing to get much game time last season.
Danny Ventre (AFC Telford United)
Like Gallagher, Ventre left City after only one season. An injury-interrupted season never allowed Ventre to show the City fans the form he showcased when he played for Sligo Rovers.
Barry Molloy (Crusaders)
After ten years at his hometown club Barry Molloy turned down a reduced terms contract from the club and decided to sign for Irish League side Crusaders.
Rory Patterson (Cockburn City)
Possibly the most high-profile exit from the Brandywell this close-season. Patterson, who was City’s top goalscorer for the last three seasons was placed on the transfer list in December by the club and with no team showing any interest in the striker, both parties agreed a mutual termination of his contract. Patterson has since signed for Australian side Cockburn City.
Michael Duffy (Celtic)
Following Duffy’s outstanding first full season as a first team player, which saw him score 16 goals from the left wing, Scottish giants Glasgow Celtic signed the winger for £110,000.
Raymond Foy (Finn Harps)
Having spent all of the season on loan at Irish League side Ballinamallard United, Foy returned to City for pre-season training but didn’t last long as he was released by the club and eventually signed up for his former Club Finn Harps.
Pundit Arena Expectations
With such a young squad Peter Hutton will find it tough in his first full season in charge of Derry. If injuries hit the squad then he will be down to bare bones and he will have to call upon his u-19 players. Anything above 6th will be classed as a good season for Derry.
City have a good history in the cups and with the league going to be tough for this young Derry squad, a good cup run will be essential. After some great performances last year, which saw City get to the FAI Cup final, this year will be tougher for City and this writer can see them making it no further than the quarter-final stage.
League: Following the number of high-profile exits from the City squad anything above sixth place in the league will be classed as a good finish for Peter Hutton’s troops.
League Cup: A good run in the cup will instil confidence in the City squad and this writer can see them getting to the semi-finals stage.
FAI Cup: After reaching the cup final last season, this writer doesn’t think City will get that far this year, but instead exit the cup at the quarter-final stage.
For the first season in quite some time Derry City come into the new campaign with only two players over the age of 30. This is one of the youngest Derry squads since they came back into League of Ireland football in 1985.
Michael Kerrigan, Pundit Arena
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