Kenny Shiels aiming to land cup success with Derry City

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Derry City: Candystripes boss Shiels pinning hopes on youth

Kenny Shiels embarks on his second season as Derry City manager aiming to land a major trophy.

He exceeded expectations in his first campaign by securing a Europa League place after finishing third in the league behind champions Dundalk and Cork City.

But the 60-year-old former Kilmarnock boss believes Derry should have reached at least one final in 2016 - something he hopes to put right this time around.

"We let ourselves down a bit losing at home to Limerick in the League Cup semi-final and we were unfortunate to go out against Dundalk after a replay in the semi-final of the FAI Cup," said Shiels.

It has been a mixed bag for Shiels in the transfer market as they get ready to kick-off against Bohemians at Dalymount Park on Friday night.

Defender Niclas Vemmulund and midfielder Conor McCormack have departed to join rivals Dundalk and Cork respectively.

On the plus side, Mark Timlin has returned after a year with St Patrick's Athletic and Northern Ireland Under-21 striker Mikhail Kennedy, along with Scottish midfielder Nicky Lowe, have joined on loan deals until the summer.

Israeli central defender Alon Netzer has become the latest arrival on Foyleside.

Perhaps, Shiels' best piece of business was to retain the services of highly-rated central defender Aaron Barry despite interest from several other clubs.

Former Northern Ireland international Rory Patterson will be expected to provide the bulk of their goals.

Northern Ireland Under-21 striker Mikhail Kennedy is one of the new arrivals at Derry City
Northern Ireland Under-21 striker Mikhail Kennedy is one of the new arrivals at Derry City

But 20 years on from their last league championship success under manager Felix Healy, Shiels says a tilt at the title is unlikely.

"We are trying to grow a team, rather than purchase a team, to win the league," said Shiels.

"It is going to be difficult to reach the top four but we will try. I want to win some silverware and our best hope is probably one of the two cups."

In some respects, Derry City are about to embark on a season like never before.

The re-development of the Brandywell Stadium means the club have had to relocate to Maginn Park in Buncrana, County Donegal for the 2017 campaign. The first game there will be against newly-promoted Limerick on 3 March.

When the club does return to the Lone Moor Road in 12 months' time, it will be transformed into a 3G pitch and new stand. The Showgrounds in Sligo would appear the most likely option to stage their Europa League game in July.

Mark Timlin has returned to Derry after one year with St Patrick's Athletic
Winger Mark Timlin has returned to Derry after one year with St Patrick's Athletic

"The players are really looking forward to playing at Maginn", said 21-year-old former Spurs trainee Aaron McEneff, the driving force in City's midfield.

"The surface is unbelievable there and, as it's a tight ground, the fans will be close to the pitch so it should create a good atmosphere.

"It is a change and I think we're all excited about it to be honest."

The decision by the FAI to go ahead with re-structuring plans for the 2018 season means the upcoming campaign will be fraught with danger for top-tier clubs.

The bottom three teams will be relegated automatically this term with only the First Division champions coming up in order to establish a two-division, 10-team structure.

Derry City were delighted to retain the services of sought-after defender Aaron Barry
Derry City were delighted to retain the services of sought-after defender Aaron Barry

It's been a contentious decision - which has not gone down well with a lot of clubs - but it will make for one of the most exciting campaigns in years.

Half the division could enter the final weeks of the campaign fighting for their lives.

At the other end, the race for the title will most likely be another duel between Dundalk and Cork which has developed into a fascinating rivalry in recent year.

Stephen Kenny's Lilywhites are on the brink of equalling Shamrock Rovers' four-in-a-row heroics of the 1980's.

European funds have strengthened their position although they have lost Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle to Preston and Ronan Finn to the Hoops from their title-winning side.

Derry would do well to match last season's third-place finish but fourth could be enough to ensure another European campaign when they return home to Brandywell in 2018.

Bohemians v Derry City will be live on BBC Radio Foyle 93.1FM on Friday night. Coverage starts at 19:30 GMT presented by Dessie McCallion with commentary from Eric White and former City striker Liam Coyle.

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