By Ryan Kelly
Despite the uncertainty surrounding Derry City following the departure of Stephen Kenny at the beginning of 2012, the appointment of Declan Devine as manager proved to be an inspired decision.
Making his debut as a manager, Devine steered the Candystripes to their first ever Setanta Sports Cup final and guided his team to an enthralling FAI Cup victory, securing European football and thus granting himself respite from criticism surrounding the club's league form.
Stephen McLaughlin departed the club for English Championship side Nottingham Forest, following a path previously tread by players such as Niall McGinn and James McClean, while the free-scoring David McDaid joined York City. The club's record goalscorer, Mark Farren also opted to leave the club at the end of the season.
Nevertheless, Declan Devine has made some shrewd acquisitions in the form of winger Paddy Kavanagh and striker Michael Rafter, as well as securing the signature of Simon Madden, who was one of Derry's most consistent players last season, while talented midfielder Barry McNamee is set to feature prominently.
Although the club is competing on more fronts this season, with European football on the horizon, the focus for Devine will be to improve Derry's league form, especially at home, and to challenge for the title.