'It's just like old times': McEleney brothers back at Brandywell with Derry City

SHANE McELENEY reckons ‘it’s just like old times’ as the defender relishes linking back up with his younger brother Patrick at their hometown club as they prepare for the opening home match of the season.

It’s been almost seven years since the pair played in the same team, their careers taking totally different trajectories since heading out the Brandywell exit door in 2015.

Shane tried his luck abroad with a spell in North America after a short stint at St Pat’s before eventually returning home to the Irish League with Larne and back to the League of Ireland with Finn Harps

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Meanwhile, Patrick has been sweeping up trophies during a memorable six-year stint with Dundalk and even ‘Fats’ admitted he never could have foreseen a football reunion with his older brother on the cards.

Brothers Patrick and Shane McEleney pictured at the Brandywell.

Shane’s impressive season with Harps last year caught the attention of Ruaidhri Higgins - who was already well versed in the player’s qualities - and when approached it was an easy decision to return to Brandywell. The added bonus was linking back up with Patrick.

“It’s just like old times,” beamed Shane. “We haven’t played with each other for five or six seasons but he looks really sharp and he’s going to be a massive asset. It’s been great and it’s been nice to be home so far.”

For Patrick, he’s been impressed with how Shane has knuckled down in pre-season and he’s confident Derry fans will see the best of the 6ft 4’’ centre-half.

“He’s been really good and has really put the work in, even in November when we weren’t in training. He has got himself into really good shape. Shane’s a good player. You don’t become a bad player overnight. He’s won trophies here and that doesn’t come easy. He’s played in big games and he’s a Derry fella so knows what’s expected. These things might happen for a reason, we’ll see.”

Shane McEleney is delighted to be back at Derry City.

Shane won the FAI Cup in 2012 and hopes the return of some of the old guard can rekindle those successful years at the club.

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“It would be brilliant,” he said. “My best footballing memories were here. I’ve gone away to other places and won other things but it’s not the same as winning something for your hometown.

"We’ve a lot of hometown players here and it will be on the agenda with the boys coming in, I’ve watched them at training and in matches and I know they are all hungry. So we’re all looking forward to that first game to get it up and running.”

The added pressure which comes with being a local lad is something Shane’s prepared for and ready to embrace.

“You will have a bit of nerves playing for your hometown club again completely but I think you should relish the pressure and embrace it.

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“We’re senior players now, we’re not young players who need senior players to bring us along. The coin has flipped now. We’ve played a couple of hundred appearances in League of Ireland and elsewhere so it’s our turn now to try and bring the young players along and coach them. If we couldn’t handle the pressure and didn’t relish it I don’t think we would be here.”

Derry boss Higgins reckons Shane's return to the club went 'under the radar' in the close season amidst marquee signings of his brother, Michael Duffy, Will Patching et al.

"Shane McEleney went under the radar last year," said Higgins. "Honestly every time I saw him live, whether it was against us or someone else, he was in complete control of what he was doing. He's got better defensively. He's got more experience and takes up better positions. But he's always been an absolutely outstanding footballer.

"If you want to build up from the back and play an attractive brand of football, then he's as good as anyone in this country. But he's turned into a real leader, that's a big thing I've noticed since he's come back. His communication and the messages he gives to people are very, very good. I'm absolutely delighted and you see how fit he looks.

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"He's worked extremely hard on his physical condition. It's a work in progress but he's in a really good position at the moment. He'll be there fighting to get into the team as will the other defenders but I think Shane is the one which went under the radar. We're delighted with him at the minute."

Shane was on the bench for the opening match of the season at Dundalk but he's fit and raring to go when called upon.

"I'm well settled into the group. It's been a tough preseason but it's been enjoyable. I think I've met it head on and I think I've settled into the group rightly. Touch wood, my body hasn't given up on me yet, I haven't missed a session so far which is a positive for me being one of the more senior players. So long may that continue. I want to play as many minutes as I can, train as much as I can but I've enjoyed every minute of it so far."

There's plenty of competition for places at the back and Shane is excited about the challenge of pushing for game-time.

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"I think the recruitment from the manager has been second to none. A lot of people haven't played together and we're still trying to get to know each other. So it's a process and will take time. We just have to take every game as it comes.

"Everyone is striving towards the one goal and if you're doing that then you're halfway there to achieving something. Whether that's this year or next year or whenever that may be. There's lots of competition for places and everyone is hungry."

Derry are hoping to be involved at the top end of the table this season and Shane is excited for what's in store this season, a campaign he reckons will be one of the most competitive yet.

"Last year every team was taking points off each other and it was very competitive. I think it will be even more so this year. Rovers are the champions and they've added to their squad and strengthened this year like other clubs have. They are the benchmark and we strive to be something like that but we also have our own identity now and our own way of playing the game.

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"We've a lot of attacking options further up the pitch so I'm excited as a player to be part of it and I'm excited as a hometown boy to be here and try and strive to bring trophies here. But like I say, it's a process and will take a bit of time."

Playing with his nephew Tiernan McKinney in preseason fixtures was a memorable moment for the McEleneys and Shane is hoping he can continue to make steady progress at the Brandywell club.

"Tiernan has showed a brilliant attitude during preseason as much as the other young players have but it was nice personally to be on the same pitch against Drogheda and then against 'Stute.

"The future for Derry looks more than promising. It looks really bright with the likes of Daithi McCallion, Liam Mullan, young Evan (McLaughlin) who made his breakthrough last year. You also have Orrin McLaughlin, Caolan Porter and Tiernan McKinney. From what I've seen from the young players so far, the future looks really good for the club.

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"It's all about the youth and if you can add one or two every season into the first team its's a massive incentive for the club which can prosper."

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