DEVON are laying solid foundation blocks for future success, according to director of cricket Keith Donohue.
A fourth-placed finish in the Western Division table with more wins than losses represented an improvement on the previous season for starters.
Added to the fact that it was achieved with a new-look side that went through a change of captain after two games, made fourth all the more impressive than it first seemed.
Four youngsters aged under 20 made their debuts during the season and two more in the same age-group – Matt Kidd and Matt Golding – only had two games between them at the start of the campaign.
Factor in having to manage without early order batsmen James Burke and Rob Woodman for most of the season – they only appeared in the last of the six Minor Counties games – and Donohue's claim holds even more water.
Devon have some work to do before challenging to regain the title they last won in 2011 – and are a long way away from being the team Donohue was part of which won a record-breaking four successive titles between 1994-1997.
But Devon are heading in the right direction and Donohue can see silverware on the horizon.
"You can't compare teams from different eras as the players are different and so are the conditions," said Donohue.
"But what I do see is something similar about the side I was lucky enough to play in and the one we are developing now and that's a togetherness.
"It is quite hard when you only get together a couple of times a month to get the same spirit in the dressing room you get in league side on a Saturday afternoon.
"When I look around our dressing room now I see a sparkle in the eyes that tells me the players are enjoying it. They support each other like a club side, not a representative team and that's vital."
Losing skipper Chris Bradley halfway through the season for personal reasons could have thrown an almighty spanner in the works. Sidmouth's Josh Bess was handed the job despite his lack of captaincy experience and that proved a shrewd move by the county hierarchy.
"Josh started the season slowly in our one-day games and you sensed he was a bit in the doldrums," said Donohue.
"Against Cornwall at Redruth he played one of the finest innings I have seen in the context of that type of cricket and from then on started to flourish.
"When Chris stood down there were one or two options, but we went for Josh because of his steelier qualities. He is a real gritty competitor.
"Some players are burdened by captaincy. Not Josh. It seems to have brought out even more of him as a batter and a bowler.
"Josh had our best bowling figures of the season – six for 25 against Oxfordshire – and was our leading run scorer (619) by a distance."
Donohue said there were visible improvements in some of the players over the season, not that he was expecting any of the new boys to become world beaters overnight.
"Matt Golding took on more of a bowling role during the season and the wickets will certainly come," said Donohue.
"Will Squire got a place in the side after impressing in development games for the Lions and looks to have a bright future ahead of him.
"Matt Kidd bowled one or two good spells when he played and Mark Orchard was just starting to come of age as a seamer at Minors level when he got injured.
"Mark has got something – the ability to bowl decisive spells – but needs to look after himself a lot better if he wants to become the sort of bowler Trevor Anning has been over a decade for Devon.
"I have told him to go away over the winter and work on getting fit –and staying fit."
"The front-end batting was a problem due to availability – and even the regulars found it difficult at times. Rob Holman didn't get the runs he would have expected, but he will be back keen again next year.
"Our middle order batting went reasonably well – Rhys Davies really impressed – but we do need better availability at the top of the order next year."