City were hoping to arrest a six match winless run which saw their league title hopes fade prior to the midseason break and with McEleney and Cameron Dummigan named in the starting line-up there was fresh optimism before kick-off.
While the rest of the City squad were enjoying some well earned downtime, McEleney was working hard at the club's training ground making sure he was available for selection against the Boynesiders after a month on the sidelines but his comeback didn't end the way he would've envisioned it.
After a three week break to recharge the batteries, tiredness or even mental fatigue couldn't be used as an excuse for what was ultimately a poor result after a game Derry dominated the scoring chances and really should've won at a canter.
Eoin Toal (ankle) and Ronan Boyce (knee) were the latest to enter the Brandywell club's treatment room but Ciaran Coll and young Caoimhin Porter were more than adequate replacements, the latter in particular providing an attacking outlet and quality delivery on the right side before sustaining an injury on the hour mark.
Will Patching and McEleney had decent chances to put the game to bed while Jamie McGonigle squandered several gilt-edged opportunities either side of Matty Smith's close range volley which gave Derry a thoroughly deserved 33rd minute lead.
The only saving grace from a rather subdued night on Foyleside was Shamrock Rovers' second successive defeat, this time to second placed Dundalk at Oriel Park.
So it's a point gained on the champions but with just two wins in their last 11 outings, McEleney and indeed, Ruaidhri Higgins know they can't afford to be so wasteful in front of the posts if they're to sustain a challenge at the top.
"I just think it's come down to taking our chances and we didn't tonight and it's bitten us," reflected a disappointed McEleney. "That was the main thing tonight. We had loads and loads of chances and we just didn't take enough of them.
"We've been in this position a couple of times to be honest, dominating games and getting ourselves ahead or just not getting ahead. It loses you points if you don't put the ball in the net. I think we had enough chances to win two games and it bit us in the end.
"It felt as if we were in total control. I know in the second half we dropped our levels a bit but I still didn't think they were going to score and then it ended up with that decision in the end."
That contentious decision, where McEleney was the main protagonist in the second half, summed up Derry's recent run of results. McEleney was livid with match official Mr Alan Patchell for awarding a penalty kick when Ryan Brennan went down softly under his challenge.
The Shantallow man was adamant there was minimal contact and certainly not enough to send the experienced Drogheda midfielder tumbling to the ground with his arms flailing in the air. Whether it was gamesmanship or not, the incident cost Derry City three valuable points and given the home side's own claims for a penalty in stoppage time when McGonigle was brought to the ground inside the box fell on deaf ears, the 1-1 result was hard to take for Higgins and his team who approached the match officials at the final whistle to protest.
"I saw it back there and I felt the same during the game," said McEleney. "I knew who it was. I knew it was Ryan Brennan and I was trying to get goalside. The ball is in the air and I'm not even running up against his back, I'm trying to get goalside and I genuinely don't know how he's given it.
"And then for our one (penalty claim) at the other end. To give theirs which wasn't a penalty in my view but if he's going to give it then he's going to have to give Jamie's one but it's a running theme now to be honest. There's no accountability so there's probably no point in talking about it."
Whether it was an injustice or not, Derry are eight points off the pace but McEleney has urged supporters not to get restless and to continue to get behind the team as they look for that elusive victory against UCD in Dublin on Friday night.
"It is a bad run and the players have to hold their hands up," said the Derry playmaker. "You can't escape it. It hasn't been good enough but if you really look into the details of the match tonight it's just about taking chances and we were the better team by a mile.
"But you can't keep standing here and say that every week either so we just ask for a bit of patience because we are going through a wee rough patch and we have to roll up our sleeves. If you look at it tonight it's a decision that went against us that cost us three points and we dominated the game. We will get better and it's going to take patience. We said this from day one, it's not made in a day so just hope everyone sticks together."
On the plus side, McEleney is back and suspects his best form is still to come.
"I'm saying my prayers, you know," he smiled. "I felt good tonight physically. Whenever everyone was away on their break I stayed and trained and made sure I was right for tonight and physically I felt fine. I was out for four weeks and I was ready to come back. My levels will get better as well so I'm looking forward to getting going again and getting a run."