PATRICK McClean professed that Derry City should be challenging for the league title alongside Dundalk and Cork City.
The 22-year-old returned to the Brandywell for a second stint on Wednesday, signing a two-year deal, and claimed that Derry, now under the stewardship of Declan Devine, should be in the hunt for all major honors.
The Creggan man, who was signed alongside former Coleraine midfielder Ciaron Harkin and Sheffield United striker David Parkhouse, was delighted to get the deal completed after long-term negotiations with Sligo Rovers.
“I am buzzing to get this move across the line,” he said. “It has been going on a while, but I am glad to get it eventually done.”
The defender left Derry City in 2015, eventually winning the First Division title with Waterford before moving closer to home with Sligo Rovers – putting in several impressive performances during a brief eight-month spell.
And now McClean believes that his initial departure from the club will stand him in good stead, pointing towards the improvement, especially the experience he attained over the past two years – insisting he has no doubt he’d make a return to the club.
“I never wanted to leave Derry (City) in the first place, but I think going away for two years, going to the First Division and coming back to the Premier (Division) and playing against teams like Derry City has helped me massively.
“But I had no doubt I would return to the club eventually,” McClean added. “Whenever I was here (the first time), I knew I was good enough, it was just about showing people my ability.
“Football is a game of opinion, so you just have to show people that you’re good enough and now I’m happy that Declan (Devine) decided to bring me back.”
The arrival of three-local talents will come as positive news to the Lone Moor Road faithful following last season’s exodus of Derry-born players.
“It’s great to see Decky giving the local players a chance,” he said. “I played with Ciaron (Harkin) for Derry City U19 and we grew up alongside each other playing football, so it will be good to get playing with him again and hopefully we can bring the buzz back to the Brandywell.”
A massive influence on McClean’s decision was Kevin Deery, who worked with the defender at Sligo Rovers – with McClean asserting he was excited to work with a high-quality backroom team.
“When I use to go down in the car with Kevin (Deery) to Sligo last year, obviously I used to have conversations about wanting to get back to Derry City and now that has happened, I’m delighted.
“You just have to look at the backroom staff with Paddy McCourt, which speaks for itself,” McClean said. “You’ve got a manager in Declan Devine, who won the (FAI) Cup here before, it’s unbelievable and full of Derry men, it’s exciting to be back.
“I’ve got every confidence in this management team, big time, Declan (Devine) was here before and was successful, there is no reason we can’t do the same again. “
The Candystripes slumped to an eighth-place finish under Kenny Shiels last season, winning only 13 league games, drawing three and losing 20 times – winning the EA Sports Cup against First Division outfit Cobh Ramblers.
But McClean, who helped steer Sligo Rovers away from a relegation battle in 2018, insists Derry City should be fighting for the biggest trophies on offer in the country.
“Derry City are a huge football club, we should be right up there with Dundalk and Cork City challenging, no doubt,” he said. “Derry should be winning league titles and domestic cups and it’s up to us now to deliver.”
Elsewhere, Brighton defender Josh Kerr is set for talks with the Foylesiders on Thursday after Declan Devine and Paddy McCourt recently watched the youngster in a U23 game.