AARON McENEFF believes 10 man Derry City’s battling display against league leaders, Dundalk at Oriel Park answered any lingering questions about this young team’s mental strength.
The midfielder is City’s leading goalscorer with EIGHT goals from 11 games and his 43rd minute spot-kick handed the Candy Stripes a way back into the match after conceding a sixth minute Robbie Benson goal.
It was the first of two comeback goals in a game where an under-strength Derry team showed true grit and bullet-proof resolve, to garner a valuable point against a team which had previously conceded just once in the league.
Derry were grateful for skipper, Gerard Doherty’s interventions as he made two excellent saves to deny John Mountney and Pat Hoban.
And despite Gavin Peers’ harsh sending off on 87 minutes, Kenny Shiels’ troops dug deep to come away from the Co. Louth venue with their unbeaten run extended to EIGHT matches in all competitions.
Without the in-form Ronan Hale, Conor McDermott and Rory Patterson, Derry stood up to show they can mix it with the best teams in the league.
Despite the club’s terrific form at Brandywell Stadium this season, doubts remained about how they could cope on the road and this display certainly dispelled those.
And McEneff, who produced a ‘man of the match’ performance on the night, reckons the manner of the result proves they are ‘no pushovers’.
“It tells the fans and the league we are no pushovers which a lot of people think we are,” said the ex-Tottenham Hotspur man. “But we are definitely no pushovers. We have a lot of character in the squad even know we have a lot of young players, we are a threat to teams.”
This type of performance and the character shown might not have been possible in the opening games of the season and McEneff believes this current crop of players are ‘hungry’ for success.
I’ve always said the Brandywell has been excellent since we’ve come back into it. But you can’t roll over when you come away from home.Aaron McEneff
“I think with the squad we have now, we’ve got people who want to play for Derry City and want to do well.
“That’s shown and the fans are seeing that and it’s rubbing off on the whole vibe around the club at the minute.
“It feels good to play in and there’s a lot of hungry lads looking to do well for Derry City here.”
The club might have claimed five successive home wins but they’re now unbeaten in their last three games on the road.
“It’s just as important to do well away from home,” added McEneff. “I’ve always said the Brandywell has been excellent since we’ve come back into it. But you can’t roll over when you come away from home. You have to stand up to teams and battle before you go and play. When you get your chances you have to take them against a quality team like Dundalk.
“We had Conor McDermott, Rory Hale and Rory Patterson missing.
“They are massive players for us but the boys came in and did a great job. Shirts are always up for grabs as Kenny says.
“ It’s about having people in the squad who are pushing each other and wanting to do better.”
McEneff became the first player to beat Dundalk keeper, Gary Rogers this season in 770 minutes of football when he blasted in his penalty to level the game in the first half.
He leads the club’s goalscoring charts and he’s enjoying his advanced role this season.
“I always want to add to my game. I’ve got the legs to get around the pitch but I have to keep going and helping the team.
“It’s a good result considering we went down to 10 men. Our boys worked really hard and deservedly got back in the game and got a point.”
They may have surrendered third spot to Waterford but it was a richly deserved point which will fuel the confidence and belief as they turn attentions to exacting revenge for the 6-1 loss at Tallaght Stadium when they renew rivalries with the Hoops on Friday night at Brandywell.