NEW BEGINNINGS... Darren Cole, Eoin Toal, Nathan Gartside, Jamie McDonagh and Mark McChrystal have all committed to Derry City for next season.
Declan Devine may have added a new face to his squad this week but in unveiling the five players who have renewed their contracts at Derry City he feels he has done his most important bit of business yet in the off-season.
The City boss has tied Eoin Toal and Nathan Gartside to new two-year contracts at the club, whilst Darren Cole and Mark McChrystal have also committed for another year. Crucially, Jamie McDonagh, wanted by a number of other clubs in recent weeks, has decided to stay at the club, signing for another year.
"This is the most important piece of business that we've done up until this point in terms of keeping the nucleus of last year's group together," he explained. Everyone here played a huge part for us last year so it was a no-brainer to try and tie everybody down at the club for this coming season.
"There was a lot of success last year but we need to push it on and I think to achieve success here it's going to be very important that the people who were here last year and here to push us on. This gives us that feel from last year but more importantly it gives us really good players and really good people at the club for 2020."
On Jamie McDonagh...
"It's a major boost. I think Jamie was outstanding for us last year. In my opinion he's one of the top wide players in the country. Jamie filled a lot of gaps last year for us but this year I predominantly see him as a forward player. When we look at Jamie, there's no-one in the country who has a better delivery of the ball and I think there's more to come form him. Some of our biggest rivals were looking to take Jamie. I think everybody in the league knows what he brings to the table. He was fantastic for us last year so we're delighted to get it over the line and this could be a big, big year for Jamie."
On Darren Cole...
"He's a class act – i said it all last year that Darren Cole is as good a footballer as there is in the county. Everything is easy to Darren Cole, I never see him out of position, out of control. Everything he does is easy for him and that's the sign of a fantastic player. Darren's challenge now is to get back into the first team squad as quickly as possible and he's shown brilliant appetite in the off-season so far. He's fortunate that there's a couple of other young players here pushing to get fit alongside him so he'll have all the support that's required to get him back playing because when Darren Cole is playing there's nobody better in my opinion in the league.”
On Eoin Toal...
"Eoin Toal in my opinion went from being a young player with a lot of potential to a man who was undroppable. He played every game, made very few mistakes and really matured. I've watched him in recent weeks playing for Northern Ireland at the highest level and he's wearing the captain's armband there when there's so many high level players there from Scotland and England. Eoin has gone in and taken that captaincy and really stood out. You only have to look at his performances over the course of last year because as the season went on he was getting stronger and stronger. It will be interesting to see if he stays for the three years because if he keeps going the way he's going there;s a good chance that he won;t see out the contract and one of the big guns from England or Scotland could snap him up."
On Nathan Gartside...
"I think Nathan and Peter Cherrie are going to fight it out to be number one this year. Last year we were flogging the same players and we fell over the line. We looked tired and fatigued and using the same 13 or 14 players – This year we need a squad of 21 players all on a similar level of ability. Nathan's application over the past ten months has probably been the best at the club in the way he trains and conducts himself. His work in the off-season and his ability and his drive to do better is superb and to have the two boys here next year will be a huge asset to Derry City Football Club. We've a goalkeeper of 36 who's been about the league and we have a goalkeeper at 21 who is going to be about for a very long time."
On Mark McChrystal...
"If I was a young player now and I was looking for a figure that could inspire me to have a good carer in the game then I couldn't look past Mark McChrystal. He probably has one of the best attitudes I've ever worked with. Let's not forget that some of the best players in this league are in their thirties and Mark has a lot to offer, both on the pitch and off the pitch, and what a fantastic servant he has been. His experience is massive because he has played at the top level. Not just that but he's a brilliant person. He demands respect and he's fitter now than he has been in a long time and that's testament to the person he is."
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