Shane McEleney hoping to reel in Rovers as ‘recharged’ Derry City host Drogheda

SHANE McEleney spent the mid-season break unwinding on a fishing trip in Kinlough, Co. Leitrim but now he’s back refreshed and determined to help Derry City reel in league leaders Shamrock Rovers’ nine point lead at the top.

By Simon Collins
Thursday, 16th June 2022, 7:21 pm
Updated Thursday, 16th June 2022, 7:23 pm

The 31 year-old City defender is ready to tackle the ‘business end’ of the season and believes the Candy Stripes are resuming the campaign with a ‘clean slate’ and from a position of strength despite their well documented slide in form prior to the extended break.

Ruaidhri Higgins’ troops may be seen as the ‘new kids on the block’ this season but McEleney believes they’re more than capable of repeating their club record-breaking start to the season which sent them top of the pile earlier in the campaign.

“Going into the break, would you’ve liked to be in the position we’re in now? Of course you would,” stated the Shantallow man. “What people don’t realise, or have forgotten, is that this is basically a new squad. There’s been a lot of new signings. People have picked up some really bad injuries, the likes of Ciaron Harkin, Mickey Duffy, Cameron Dummigan and Patrick (McEleney) has had a few injuries. If you looked at our bench over the last few weeks there’s been a lot of young boys on it. So the squad was depleted.

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FIGHTING TALK . . . Shane McEleney believes Derry City can reign in leaders Shamrock Rovers during the second half of the season.

“As a group we have to knuckle down now. It’s the business end of the season.”

Derry host Drogheda United at Brandywell tonight knowing Rovers or Dundalk, or perhaps both, will drop points as the top two meet at Oriel Park. It’s a huge incentive to return to winning ways and close the gap on the leaders - an objective McEleney views as ‘doable’.

“We look forward to the game on Friday. It’s a fresh start, a clean slate, and hopefully we can put in a good performance in the Brandywell. The crowds have been fantastic all year round so hopefully Friday is the same.

“The objective for us is to try and finish as high as possible. Nine points, is it doable? I would say yes but you have to give respect to Shamrock Rovers, they’re a well-oiled machine and we’re the new kids on the block.

“For us to be in the position we’re in now is promising and we look forward to the second half of the season. Rovers will probably add a few fresh faces as well but if we concentrate on ourselves and take one game at a time it’s the best way to do it. It worked for us during the first part of the season and hopefully it works during the second half.”

With the Brandywell club’s treatment room near to capacity, the timing of the three-week long break was crucial in allowing Patrick McEleney and Cameron Dummigan et al. to edge closer to full fitness after niggling injuries.

McEleney spent his downtime enjoying his favourite pastime, a spot of fishing on the banks of the River Drowes, which allowed him to shut off completely from the pressures of football.

He’s noticed a change of mindset among his teammates upon his return and has high hopes that a ‘recharged’ Derry City can go on a winning run and he’s angling for three big points to kickstart it all against the Boynesiders tonight.

“It was good we had the extended break because we got a few bodies back. Personally I just go away and switch off from football. I enjoy my fishing so I went fishing for a couple of days in Kinlough just outside Sligo and you have to do that. You have to switch off for a while but by the looks of things everyone has come back in refreshed with their batteries recharged. It’s been a good week and it was good getting the Cliftonville game on Saturday so we’re looking forward to Friday’s game and hopefully we can get back to winning ways.

“Everybody has come back in a positive mindset. It’s like any other profession, a break does you the world of good. Your head is showered, I definitely saw an uptake in terms of people’s energy this week.”

Derry made a rod for their own backs (forgive the pun) with their impressive start to the season because with those high standards set, the pressure ramped up during that six match winless run. There will be plenty of more twists and turns before the season’s end, however, and McEleney, who has made 203 appearances for his hometown club, is experienced enough to recognise that.

“The break was welcomed because we could see we were a bit flat. We set such a high standard for ourselves with such a good run of games and everyone was flying but we’re only human. Sometimes you will have an off week and a dip in form. That’s part and parcel of football, you can’t play well all the time.

“The last few games against Harps and Sligo, we just weren’t at it and you’re going to get that at times during the season when you haven’t played well. Football is a crazy game. You could play badly and end up winning those games with a bit of luck.”

The draw against Riga FC in the UEFA Conference League and the promise of new arrivals at Brandywell has injected a fresh boost of confidence in the City camp. And with winnable games against Drogheda, UCD (away) and Bohemians (home) coming up, McEleney hopes the club can pick up some favourable results and momentum going into that European tie.

“We have to take it a game at a time, knock them off and hopefully we get back to winning ways against Drogheda. It would be brilliant to get a couple of wins going into the European game because it would give us confidence going into it which would be massive.

“If we start off with a win on Friday it’ll set us up for the game against UCD and hopefully we can get back to playing the fluent football we were playing and get everyone’s confidence built up to what it was before and get a good run again.”

“Whoever the manager brings in it will add a freshness and competition for places so it will get people firing again. Hopefully it boosts our squad and gives us a different dynamic. It’s the business end of the season now and I’m sure I speak for everyone in the squad we’re all fit and ready to go.”

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