PATRICK McEleney is expected to emerge from the shadows and become a key player in the managerial reign of Declan Devine, as Derry City prepare to mount a challenge in the Airtricity League this season.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
The 20-year-old, who has consistently impressed during the club’s pre-season campaign this year, appears to have developed that special spring in his step having returned to training in good condition, suggesting he may have something to prove.
Indeed, the versatile player has occupied several positional berths in Derry’s games against Dungannon Swifts, Institute and Finn Harps which leads one to the view that the pivotal “No. 10” jersey may prove to be significant this season.
And with Bohemians visiting the Brandywell for the opening game tonight (7.45 p.m.), it’s clear that the “Candy Stripes” wish to open the season with an impressive victory.
When questioned on McEleney’s notable progress in pre-season, Devine made no bones about the fact that “Fats” was probably one of the most technically gifted players in the Premier Division.
“The performances of Patrick McEleney have not surprised me, in fact, I’m a big fan of his,” declared Devine. “Technically, he’s one of the most gifted players in the Premier Division and now that he has got one such season under his belt, it’s my view that he will rise to prominence this season,” added the Derry boss.
“Patrick has got the potential to go much further in this game as I believe he’s a natural. Now it’s all about improving the workrate as he clearly has the talent to play at the highest level.”
Versatile across the midfield area and in the front line, McEleney will continue to occupy that special No. 10 position when hovering above the midfield area and linking play with Derry’s three-pronged strikeforce.
“He gives us so many options in an offensive role and I think it’s great to have a player who can freely adjust without us having to make substitutions.
“Patrick is capable of doing that and it’s a talent we would expect to exploit throughout the season,” continued Devine.
With Bohemians expected to provide stubborn resistance tonight, Devine dismissed suggestions that the Dalymount Park club had lost quite a few of its more established players from last season.
“I’ve listened to quite a few people commenting on the strength of Bohemians this season given that they’ve lost a few players, but in new signings such as Evan McMillan, Keith Buckley and Derek Pender, they have managed to attract quite a few decent players.
“Owen Heary has remained a Dalymount and I’ve no doubt that they will be doing all in their power to get the 2012 season off to a decent start.
“Indeed, for teams playing away from home in the opening match of the season, it’s always important to avoid defeat and Bohemians will travel with those thoughts in mind,” claimed Devine.
“They will make it difficult for us but they have players who are capable of causing us problems even if the match is at the Brandywell.”
He agreed that the vast majority of visiting teams would continue to set their stall out in a defensive format but added that the Derry City challenge was to break that down.
“Bohemians will attempt to frustrate us and, at the same time, make it a very difficult game. Paul Hegarty and I have already watched them play in Dublin and they are not as weak as some people have suggested,” maintained the Derry boss.
On the team front, the “Candy Stripes” will field without their captain, Kevin Deery, who has a calf strain while new signing, Brian McGroary will not be involved either, the right winger focused on getting match fit following his return from England.