Talented Derry City forward, Patrick McEleney, has only one ambition for 2014 and that is to help his hometown club to win the Airtricity League Premier Division title.
McEleney, 21, finished a morning training session in the Vale Centre in Greysteel on Friday before he returned home to the house he shares with his older brother Shane, sister and parents.
If a morning spent putting his body through the pain and strain of pre-season wasn’t enough football for one day, McEleney opts to relax at home with a copy of Sir. Alex Ferguson’s autobiography before meeting up with the rest of the Derry City squad for a second training session in the afternoon.
“Once you have two or three pre-seasons under your belt you sort of know what to expect but I am not going to lie, it’s been tough.
“If someone off the street was to try and do what we are doing I don’t think they’d be able to do it - it’s such tough going but it has to be done.”
The former Sunderland youth player has made over 150 appearances for Derry City since leaving the ‘Black Cats’ in 2010.
Since that time, McEleney has helped the Candy Stripes to win the FAI Ford Cup (2012), the EA Sports League (2011) and Airtricity League First Division title (2010).
“The only competition left for me to win with Derry City is the Premier Division title. Nothing would make me happier than to be part of a team that did that in 2014.
“Roddy Collins and Peter Hutton have brought their own philosophy to the team and the new players that they’ve brought in look to be really good signings.
“I want nothing more than to win the Premier Division title with Derry City and with a good bit of hard work and a bit of luck we can do that this coming season,” he smiled.
Dubliner Roddy Collins replaced Declan Devine as manager of Derry City in November last year but McEleney said he enjoyed his time playing under Devine and added that he had no doubt that the Derry man would go on to experience success elsewhere.
“Playing under Declan was great for me. You’re always sad to see anyone lose their job and I wish him the very best for the future.
“Declan has bags of talent and I am sure he will taste success again soon.”
Collins, who has managed Carlisle United, Shamrock Rovers and Maltese side, Floriana F.C., has met with and spoken to McEleney.
“Roddy has told me what he expects of me this season. He told me that he thinks I have a lot of natural talent.
“It’s always nice when you hear that sort of thing because it makes you want to work really hard for not just the team but the manager who is putting his faith in you.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I have set myself a few targets for this coming year but first thing’s first - I have to make sure I get into the team.
“There is going to be a lot of competition for places this year. That means we have to work harder and always be looking over our shoulders because there will always be someone waiting on the sidelines to take your spot in the team.
“It’s great to see so many new faces at the Brandywell but obviously a few of the players from last season have left. I’d like to take this opportunity to wish every single one of them the very best for the future,” he said.
Derry City kick-off their 2014 Airtricity League Premier Division campaign when they travel to Dublin to take on Shamrock Rovers in the Tallaght Stadium.
Rovers, who are managed by former St. Patrick’s Athletic assistant coach, Trevor Croly, have strengthened their side over the off-season and McEleney believes they will be formidable opponents on March 7.
“Playing Rovers in Tallaght is always a big game for us but we have come away from there with a few decent results the last few seasons - hopefully we can do the same this season.
“There are so many teams who will be out to win the league title this year but all we can do is concentrate on our own game, work and train hard and listen to what Roddy is telling us.”
McEleney joined Derry City the season after then captain Peter Hutton left the club to play for Irish League outfit Cliftonville in 2010.
“My big brother Shane, made his debut at centre-back for Derry City alongside Peter Hutton.
“Peter is an absolute legend in Derry and his knowledge of football is unreal. He’s amazing to work with and it’s going to be brilliant working alongside both him and Roddy in 2014.
“There’s a real professionalism about the club and everyone in the squad is in great form.
“All of the players all feel really looked after and we can’t wait to get started and playing football.
“This is the hardest part of the season for us players because all we want to do is get out there and play for the fans - March couldn’t come soon enough,” he laughed.