Shane McEleney says he could 'die a happy man' if he won league title with Derry City

​DERRY defender Shane McEleney claims he would 'die a happy man' if he was to win the Premier Division title with his hometown club before calling time on his career.
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At 32 years of age, the well-travelled centre half knows he must cherish nights like Friday night where a sold-out Brandywell Stadium will bear witness to a top of the table clash that is likely to have a major bearing on the destination of the 2023 title.

Ruaidhri Higgins offered the Shantallow man a second chance at his boyhood club when signing from Finn Harps ahead of the 2022 season.

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Winning the FAI Cup last year served to reignite his hunger for silverware and the potential to capture that elusive league title and bringing it back to the maiden city for the first time in 26 years has been prominent in his thoughts ahead of a crunch clash with Rovers.

Shane McEleney leads the Derry City team into the dressing room at Brandywell.Shane McEleney leads the Derry City team into the dressing room at Brandywell.
Shane McEleney leads the Derry City team into the dressing room at Brandywell.

"That's the only thing for me personally that I want," said McEleney, the older brother of City skipper Patrick who has

three league titles to his name from his time at Dundalk.

"If I could win the league with Derry before my time finishes here, that would be a dream, I could die a happy man as they say," he smiled.

Given his obvious family connection with the club, the thought of lifting the league title with his younger sibling and following in the footsteps of the 1989 and 1997 Derry teams would be 'a dream come true'.

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"It would mean the world to me personally. It would mean everything to everyone as well. Last year in the lead up to the cup final I always thought of my granda," he said. "He was a season ticket holder and myself and 'Fats' used to take turns going to the matches. Those are memories that don't leave you. Going to watch the likes of Liam Coyle and all. We thought he was God at the time. On the flip side of that now, all you see is young kids running around in Derry tops, Derry tracksuits and the kids have really bought into it and they look up to us now which is a surreal experience at times.

"I think this group of players have done the town and the club really proud up until now and if we could go that step further it would be a dream."

That cup win which bridged a 10 year search for FAI Cup glory has instilled a winning mentality and belief among this group of players and with the likes of his brother, Michael Duffy and Cameron Dummigan in the dressing room, McEleney reckons it gives them a real chance of overhauling Rovers.

"That's massive for the run-in. Even their presence in the changing room if they're not playing - it's huge. We've had a lot of boys who tasted success last year. I know myself coming back to Derry and winning the cup in my first year here gave me more hunger and incentive to try and go out and win more. Especially at my age, being 32, I'll probably not get many more nights or memories like that.

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"This is a hungry group. It's a very honest group and we'll look forward to Friday night. Hopefully the crowd who have been fantastic on the big nights, the European games, cup games whatever, they can give us an extra lift and hopefully we can get a good result."

Rory Gaffney is one of Rovers main attacking threats but McEleney knows it could be a busy night for the City defence.

“I'd say they've got four or five that you would need to keep an eye on, to be honest. He's (Gaffney) a good player. He got Player of the Year last year, so that speaks for itself.

“I think we have to concentrate on our game. We know they've got attacking threats. We’ve to match ours against anyone's on the night. So hopefully it will be a night to remember for us.”