Patrick McEleney ends speculation about Dundalk future claiming he's 'excited' to join Derry City

PATRICK 'Fats' McEleney has denied suggestions he's left the door open on his Dundalk future, stating categorically he's 'excited' about making a sensational return to Derry City next season.

By Simon Collins
Saturday, 7th August 2021, 8:28 pm
Patrick McEleney will say his goodbyes to Dundalk at the end of the season and is 'excited' about returning to Derry City.
Patrick McEleney will say his goodbyes to Dundalk at the end of the season and is 'excited' about returning to Derry City.

Breaking his silence on the reasons behind signing a pre-contract with the Brandywell club last month, McEleney explained the opportunity to work with Derry boss Ruaidhri Higgins was a significant factor.

The 28 year-old playmaker, who spent six trophy-laden seasons with Dundalk, admitted it was a tough decision to leave Oriel Park but ultimately one based on family and football reasons.

After six years on the road, the Derry man felt he owed it to his partner and two young children, who have sacrificed so much, to return home and settle back in his hometown.

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Responding to Vinny Perth's recent claims he hasn't given up hope of keeping him at the club beyond this season and reports suggesting he could potentially be tempted to renege on his Derry deal and be persuaded to return to Dundalk for next season, McEleney wanted to end the speculation and 'unfounded' conjecture about his future.

Out of respect for Dundalk, McEleney felt he went about his business in a professional manner and since Derry announced his signing, he's produced a string of spectacular performances domestically and in the Europa Conference League and has remained fiercely loyal to the Co Louth club.

"I think I've gone the right way about it," claimed the former Sunderland and Oldham midfielder. "First and foremost I have a family and they are my number one priority over everything.

"It basically comes down to that and obviously the buzz of actually going back to play for Derry. People might forget but I had a season ticket at Derry City from when I was nine right up. I didn't miss any games and went to away games to support the club.

McEleney left his hometown club in 2015 after making 225 appearances for the Candy Stripes.

"I'm obviously a Derry lad and I'm really looking forward to going back there. Like I said, I have a family to look after. I have a daughter who is at school and I have to look after her interests most importantly."

McEleney made 225 appearances for Derry before leaving for Dundalk in 2015 and he returns on a long term deal which keeps him at Brandywell until at least the end of the 2023 season.

With his six year-old daughter Saorlaith starting primary school in September, McEleney and his partner Aoibheann felt it was time to relocate to Foyleside where she is already registered to attend a local school.

"My family has obviously been amazing for me the whole time," he explained. "When players sign for clubs people don't think about the kids going into schools and having to move schools and their partners being by themselves.

Vinny Perth said he hasn't given up hope of convincing Patrick McEleney to remain at Dundalk but the midfielder insists he's made up his mind and will join Derry City in January.

"My missus moved down to Dundalk when my wee girl was just two months. She was our first kid and it's not easy at times, especially for my daughter who has been from Derry to Dundalk to Manchester to Dundalk and now back to Derry in the space of six years. She's six now and my son Conlaoch is just 10 months-old. I just want them settled and my missus just wants to be settled. They do have a say in what I do at this stage because they've done so much for me over the years."

Dundalk boss Vinny Perth was outraged at the timing of McEleney's pre-contract announcement on the eve of the club's European victory over Welsh side Newtown but the player claimed there was never going to be a good time to reveal the deal.

"It wasn't an easy decision to do it at that time but I don't think it was ever going to be a good time. The bottom line is, I have a family and I have to make sure they are settled and they're happy. They've stuck with me everywhere I've gone. She's six years old now and was basically raised down here in Dundalk.

"She starts school in September and I had no answers from anyone at the time so I was buzzing when Derry approached me whenever it was legal to do so.

"Knowing Ruaidhri (Higgins) and what he's about, it was very exciting for me. I think we have the same beliefs in football and I'm just really, really looking forward to it.

"In the meantime, I still have a job to do here at Dundalk. People can never question my commitment or professionalism. I train hard every single day and have done so for six years so nothing is going to change in that sense.

"As I said, my daughter was raised down here and I've been here for six years and love the club. That will never be forgotten.

"I still have a job to do at Dundalk as this club has been a massive part of my life and I'm looking forward to the rest of the season.

"Hopefully by coming out and explaining my decision to leave, it stops all the silly questions, unfounded speculation about my future. Hopefully this nips it in the bud now. I've made my reasons clear and hopefully people can understand that."