Derry City duo welcome Northern Ireland call-up

Credit �INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Credit �INPHO/Ryan Byrne

DERRY City’s versatile defender, Shane McEleney, doesn’t have any hang-ups in relation to international selection having been called into the N. Ireland Under-21 squad which leaves for Budapest this Sunday.

ARTHUR DUFFY reports

The 21-year-old has already represented the Republic of Ireland at both Under-19 and Under-21 levels but the towering centre-half was delighted to have been called into Steve Robinson’s northern set-up this week.

And with David McDaid also called into the N. Ireland Under-21’s, McEleney is looking forward to the experience.

“I played as a schoolboy in an Under-14 international with N. Ireland and while I know some of the lads involved in the Under-21 team, I’m delighted to give it a go and see how I get on,” he said.

“It’s an international friendly fixture against Hungary and with Paddy McCourt, Danny Lafferty and Shane Ferguson all called into the senior squad, I’m just happy to be travelling. Hopefully, I’ll be involved in the starting line-up,” added Shane.

Disappointed with Republic

Happy to gain international recognition, Shane was disappointed that he had not heard from the Republic of Ireland having represented Noel King’s squad in previous friendly games.

“To be honest, I was disappointed that I wasn’t called up again having played for the Republic’s Under-21’s in a few friendly games. I felt I did well enough and I was confident that I could perform at that level, but I suppose it’s all down to the manager’s decision.

“Now that Steve Robinson has been in touch with me, I was very happy to accept the invitation. I am aware that he has travelled to Derry to watch a few matches at the Brandywell this season and with Davy (McDaid) and myself called up, he must have been impressed with us.”

Having played regularly with the Republic of Ireland Under-19 squad managed by former Dundalk boss, Sean McCaffrey, McEleney is anxious to fulfil his potential and play at the highest level possible.

“I’ve always strived to improve and try to play at the highest level possible. The call-up by N. Ireland has given me a personal boost and I’ll be doing everything in my power to impress. I don’t think players can afford to turn down international recognition as I believe it’s all about a player’s development and improvement.

“It’s also another opportunity to put myself in the shop window and, to be honest. I also want to see what N. Ireland is all about. As I’ve said, I’m thrilled to be called into the squad and, hopefully, I can remain in it if given the chance to impress the manager.”

With McDaid in the Under-21s and players such as Lafferty, McCourt and Shane Ferguson in the senior squad, McEleney will be in good company and he intends to enjoy the experience.

“It’s nice to be asked and I think it will be a nice trip to see Budapest. We haven’t played a competitive game now in two weeks, so hopefully I will be involved and it will help me prepare for the Bohemians match at the Brandywell as we come back from Hungary next Thursday,” he noted.

And the versatile player is anxious to finish the current Airtricity League season on a high.

“Over recent days we have almost the full squad involved in training sessions which is great.

“And with players now getting back to fitness after injury, I think that will bosst our confidence levels as we attempt to finish the season on a high.

“I think we’ve under-performed in quite a few matches and should have taken maximum points in other games but allowed the opposition in to score late goals and force us to share the spoils.

“But with a full squad of players available for the final run-in to the end of the season, I believe we are capable of going on a winning run and ending the 2012 season on a high,” concluded the 21-year-old Shantallow man.

Duffy, O’Kane in action in Sligo

Meanwhile, with McEleney and McDaid looking forward to their trip to Hungary next week, two other Derry men - Shane Duffy and Eunan O’Kane - will be representing the Republic of Ireland Under-21’s in the Sligo Showgrounds next Tuesday night against Turkey in a UEFA Under-21 Championship Group Seven qualifying game.

Duffy, who has made significant progress since making his first team debut for Everton in the Europa League, has been a regular in Noel King’s squad, while O’Kane, from Limavady, has been called up for his second international appearance.

The former Torquay midfielder opted to join Bournemouth during the close season.