Derry City boss Ruaidhri Higgins salutes 'sensational' Patrick McEleney
RUAIDHRI Higgins hailed the performance delivered by Derry City's midfield maestro Patrick McEleney in the emphatic 4-0 thumping of St Patrick's Athletic at Richmond Park as 'sensational'.
It wasn't easy to single out any individual after one of the best team displays the Brandywell club has produced away from home in quite some time.
However, McEleney certainly left his mark against the Saints in Inchicore with another consummate showing in the Derry midfield which epitomised the club's overall team performance.
There's never been any doubt over the classy Shantallow man's technical ability which he exhibits in abundance given he's been one of the stand-out performers in the League of Ireland over the past five or six years.
Higgins knew exactly what he was getting when he made him his first marquee signing of his Derry reign last summer but it was his workman-like, defensive capabilities and leadership qualities which shone through on Friday night.
His work without the ball was just as effective as when in possession and his outstanding lung-busting retreat and crucially timed tackle on Darragh Burns who began a dangerous counter in the first half, summed up the performance from the visitors who were relentless, and totally overwhelmed their opponents during a 45 minute blitz.
McEleney has won three league titles, two FAI Cups and two League Cups with Dundalk but he's returned to his hometown club intent on bringing success and silverware back to Foyleside and Higgins was keen to draw attention to the player's 'passion' and willingness to put in a shift.
"It shows Patrick's passion for this club and why he wanted to come back," said the Derry boss. "Patrick's won it all over and over again. I think if we keep him going the way he's going, we've got one of the top players in the country. His leadership qualities shone through tonight.
"People talk about (Will) Patching, McEleney and Brandon Kavanagh's creativity but I thought out of possession they were probably better than they were in possession. They all played their part. They're the lads who get the credit for their offensive performances but you have to look at what they did defensively tonight. They were exceptional and nullified really good players."
Higgins has been shrewd in utilising the ex-Oldham man, using McEleney sparingly and effectively on his return from a serious injury sustained while playing with Dundalk last summer.
He's already hit the mark with the winning strike at Tolka Park this season with his 41st Derry goal in his 200th start and was central to the turnaround in the 2-1 win against Bohemians at Dalymount Park with an assist for James Akintunde's winner earlier this season.
A couple more assists against UCD in the 7-1 drubbing before the hour mark and Higgins brought him ashore to ensure he would be fresh for the trip to Inchicore at the weekend.
To watch a player of McEleney and also Patching's quality tracking back and covering huge distances will surely have motivated the rest of the team as Derry played with an intensity, both with and out of possession, which dismantled a shell-shocked St Pat's.
Higgins isn't normally one for singling out individuals but he was delighted with McEleney's selfless contribution and workrate on the night.
"We needed a big away performance and his class shone through," added Higgins. "He was absolutely brilliant. Honestly, on both sides of the game he was sensational.
"Defensively, Alan Reynolds mentioned something in the dressing room afterwards to the players and he's 100 percent right. As good as we were in possession we were even better out of possession.
"People talk about McEleney and Patching and Kavanagh and Matty Smith and all these types of players who are creative footballers but they've got another side to them. Defensively they understand the game."