Barry McNamee in action against Drogheda earlier this week. ©INPHO/Presseye/Lorcan Doherty
LOI Kick-off

1 to watch: Will Barry McNamee be the next Derry City player to land a big move?

Ahead of tomorrow’s league kick-off, Candystripes boss Declan Devine is hoping for a season free of injury trouble.

IT’S NOT ABOUT luck and it’s not something they’re putting in the water.

Derry City’s proud record of bringing through talented young footballers and moving them on to the next level is the result of planning and shrewd investment, insists manager Declan Devine.

Nottingham Forest and York City came knocking for Stephen McLaughlin and David McDaid in the off-season, and now the Candystripes boss is hoping that he can hang on to his next wave of talent for long enough to build a title challenge this season.

Barry McNamee is another who has turned heads across the pond and the 21-year-old looked set to join McLaughlin at Forest before Sean O’Driscoll’s shock sacking saw the move fall through.

“I’ve no doubt this year that there’ll be players knocking on the door,” Devine told ahead of tomorrow’s league kick-off against champions Sligo Rovers. “The McNamees and the Rafters and so on. Fingers crossed that we can hold on to them until they give us a good season.”

“McNamee was over at Forest and there was a change of management — thankfully he’ll will be starting the season with us. I don’t want to lose him just yet. I’m sure that Barry will raise a few eyebrows this year.”

He added: “The nature of our club is if young players are doing well, we’re not going to stand in their way. Derry City has a proud tradition of moving players to a higher level. Only recently we had seven internationals in the two squads, the Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

To me, it’s not luck. The club decided 10 years ago to invest in youth development. They spent a lot of money in terms of compensation. They spent a lot of money in terms of paying coaches to work with these young players. It’s not a case of luck; it’s a case of investing in the right channels and it’s starting to pay dividends.

Now the trick for Devine is to translate that talent into consistency on the pitch. November’s dramatic FAI Cup final win was a stand-out highlight, but 2012 was a season dogged by injuries which ultimately saw Derry trail off and finish a distant fifth in the league.

“The whole spine of our team was missing. Stewart Greacen played eight games last year, he’s a huge player for us; Kevin Deery played 12 games; Barry Molloy missed huge parts of the season.

“I think you saw in the Cup final what Rory Patterson is capable of if he’s playing. Rory Patterson played 15 games last year and that’s not enough.

The whole spine of our team suffered last year if you would do if you were losing Greacen, Deery, Molloy, Patterson for long periods.

This year, with a good pre-season behind them, Devine is optimistic of keeping his top players fit on a more regular basis.

“I think a factor in it was that there was no manager in place until the 6th or 7th of January when we got the job,” he explains. “I think players were a bit disheartened. They didn’t have any structure or know what was happening over Christmas.

“Some players didn’t come back the fittest that they have been. You were always chasing your tail in terms of playing catch-up with fitness and players last year picked up injuries because their bodies weren’t in the condition they should have been.”