Just like starting over for Derry City
The new era begins for Derry City this evening as they embark on life in the first division of the League of Ireland.
Quite honestly, no-one knows what to expect after the most turbulent close season in the club’s history.
Supporters were devastated when the club was expelled from the league when the secondary contracts scandal broke last year.
There was widespread relief when after a flurry of activity the club was re-admitted to the first division with a new company running the club with a new board of directors in place.
Securing senior football for the city was vital, but one wonders if the fans would have been so ready to accept their reduced status had relegation from the Premier League been the original punishment.
Not that it matters now. They are in the first division and have to make the most of it — by earning themselves promotion at the earliest opportunity.
And with the majority of last year’s squad now snapped up by clubs on both sides of the border, manager Stephen Kenny says the club is being rebuilt from the ground up.
“We've a new squad with 11 of the 18 facing their first full season in League of Ireland football,” he said.
“The squad is very young, but it still has a fair degree of talent within it.
“These local teenagers take great pride in representing not only their local club but also the city itself, which is so important.
“The entire squad has been born and bred within a six-mile radius of Brandywell Stadium.”
The exception is striker Mark Farren, who hails from Donegal, but has been at the club from his teenage days. He, Barry Molloy and new skipper Kevin Deery are just about the only survivors from the side which was challenging for the Premier division title just a few years ago.
Cork City Foras — the club formed by supporters after Cork City were themselves thrown out of the league — are Derry’s opening opponents at the Brandywell this evening.
They moved quickly to snap up players from the defunct club and quickly being granted permission to play in the league although, like Derry, are basically starting again from scratch.
Despite their new lowly position, there are a few potentially tasty battles ahead with Shelbourne — yet another high-flying team to fall spectacularly from grace — and neighbours Finn Harps expected to be in the push for promotion.
And that will be the acid test for Derry. There is interest in this camopaign after a turbulent period, but if the new-look young squad fails to make a bright start to the campaign, it’s questionable how long they can sustain the interest of their more casual supporters.