PATRICK McELENEY admits he’s still haunted by memories of FAI Cup heartbreak experienced with both Derry City and Dundalk.
The Shantallow man is desperate to make amends for defeats in the 2014 (Derry City), 2016 and 2017 (Dundalk) showpieces as he bids to return to the Aviva Stadium for a fifth time on November 4th.
He’s already got one FAI Cup winners’ medal from Derry’s 2012 triumph over St Patrick’s Athletic but he’s desperate to make it two as Dundalk prepare to meet First Division champions, UCD at Oriel Park tonight.
“I’ve lost two cup finals while I’ve been at Dundalk,” said the Derry man. “We lost on penalties and with the last kick in extra-time and it still haunts me. You always think about it and I’ll be looking to set it right.
“We have to do a job on UCD first and we look forward to it. We’re not going to look past UCD, they’re flying. “They’ve won their league, they’ve a winning mentality so they’re not going to come up here and just roll over.”
Six months after leaving for League One club, Oldham, McEleney returned to Dundalk in the summer where he’s set to clinch his second League of Ireland Premier Division winners’ medal.
Following victory over his hometown club on Tuesday when McEleney netted a wonderful strike in a move involving fellow Derry man, Michael Duffy, Dundalk all but secured a fourth league title in five seasons with a league and cup ‘double’ firmly in their sights.
The former Sunderland striker, who celebrated his 26th birthday on Wednesday, may not have played the entire season but he believes he’s contributed to the title win and very much felt a part of the celebrations.
“It’s a weird one because I’ve only arrived and the job is half done but I feel part of it because I’ve been here and know all the players. I was always supporting them when I was away and had been to a couple of games. I’m over the moon. I’ve contributed. I scored tonight and I’ve done my bit.”
Asked if he noticed a difference in Dundalk’s mentality since returning from England, McEleney said there was an ‘obsession’ amongst the players to recapture the title after last season’s disappointments.
Obviously I still love Derry, that’s where I’m from. But I’ve a job to do here now and this is basically my new home for my family and I’ll just do what I have to do for Dundalk.Patrick McEleney
“Comparing it with my first year, I think everyone is a bit obsessed. There’s an obsession with winning the league. Last year was a bit of a transition year and there were loads of players coming in and going out. Since I’ve come back everyone is obsessed, so maybe that could be the difference.
Dundalk and Derry couldn’t be further apart in terms of league form with Stephen Kenny’s men winning 16 out of 17 and the Candy Stripes losing 17 league matches in total.
Despite that, McEleney was impressed by the character shown by Derry as they attempted to claw back the 3-0 half-time deficit.
“They came out and showed a lot of character. Nicky Low and Dean Shiels came on and put their foot on it and controlled it a lot more. They played very well in the second half.
“So anybody who is questioning their character, there’s obviously character there if they can come here with us pushing for the league and scored two goals in the second half. I wouldn’t question them massively.
“There’s been ins and outs and it’s really hard whenever you’re trying to get a settled side. If you don’t get a settled side or a rhythm then it can be tough. So I think that could be the main problem, not getting a settled side.
“If you look back when they had a settled side, you had McNamee and McEneff and you could name their whole team. They showed a lot of character so I wouldn’t say they’re far off it.”
A return to his hometown club in the near future doesn’t appear to be an option for the talented playmaker who feels at home at Carrick Road after signing a three year deal.
“Obviously I still love Derry, that’s where I’m from. But I’ve a job to do here now and this is basically my new home for my family and I’ll just do what I have to do for Dundalk.”