Patrick McEleney urges table toppers Derry City to puff out their chests and rise to Shelbourne challenge
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The City skipper made his first appearance since Easter Monday as a second half substitute in the 1-0 loss against Sligo at the Showgrounds having missed the previous eight games with an Achilles injury.
His return, alongside centre-half Mark Connolly, provides a timely boost for the club as they look to get their title tilt back on track against a plucky Shels side.
He can't wait to get back playing and believes Derry shouldn't dwell on that missed opportunity in Sligo but instead sit back and take stock of what's so far been a promising campaign.
"We're a point ahead at the top of the league so when you sit back and think about it, we're a year-and-a-half into the process, we finished second in the league, won a trophy and are now sitting top of the league so you have to take a deep breath sometimes," said the skipper.
"I'm like a broken record. I keep asking for patience even when we're sitting top of the league. People need to have a sit back and think about what's going on.
"Last weekend aside, our form has been quite good," he added. "We've been on a decent run and picked up really good points in tough venues and at home. So we're going into the game with confidence.
"Last week was a setback but we're top of the league, you have to stick your chest out and be ready."
Derry huffed and puffed in Sligo and even the introduction off the bench of Will Patching and McEleney failed to ignite a comeback.
However, McEleney has won the league on three occasions and knows only too well that nothing is won or lost in June.
"We weren't at the races. The first five minutes summed up the way it was. We were lacking all over. You can dwell on it. It was disappointing. Was it an opportunity? Maybe.
"I know it was a chance to go four clear but there's still so much to play. We still have to play Shamrock Rovers a couple of times. "We still have to play Bohs a couple of times so you can get caught up on points but we just need to keep our heads down. We are where we are and that's it!"
And this City team has already shown it has the character and resilience to bounce back from setbacks.
"We have answered questions and I think we've even answered questions last year since the process started.
"It's demanding at Derry now and the fans want us to win every game which is right and so do we. But there's young players there who are still learning and we're still learning as a team together. It will take time but trust me, we are doing our best."
Ruaidhri Higgins hasn't been afforded the luxury of having his best team available this season but with McEleney, Connolly, Cameron McJannet and Michael Duffy all recovered from long term injuries, the squad has significantly strengthened.
"We haven't had our full squad out there since the end of last season but we're still sitting top of the league. We can play a lot better but that comes with everybody being on the pitch together over a period of time."
"I'm just looking forward to getting back out and getting everyone together. It's a squad now where you have to be at it now to be in the team which is all healthy. I'm just looking forward to getting out there."
The 4-0 hammering of Shelbourne in the FAI Cup Final aside, games against Damien Duff's troops have always been difficult including that 1-0 win at Tolka Park back in March when Ryan Graydon's strike proved decisive.
It'll be no different on Friday night predicts McEleney.
"They have a brilliant manager and brilliant staff with Joey O'Brien and Dave McAllister being there. Their players give everything they have for them and we'd expect no different on Friday.
"He's done a brilliant job and they're a tough team to play against. I think every game has been a grind. You know you're in a game with them so we'd expect nothing different."