Skipper Patrick McEleney wants new focus for glory in Derry City squad

Derry City's Patrick McEleney, while delighted with their FAI Cup success a few months ago, insists that success is now in the past.

The captain believes the squad should now be looking for bigger and better things in 2023 and hopes that cup win over Shelbourne will be the springboard for more silverware.

McEleney, who has won everything in the League of Ireland, believes the message from both himself and manager Ruaidhrí Higgins will be 'park the cup final and look for more success'.

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"Look, there needs to be a new hunger for everybody. We need to park what's been done," he insisted.

Derry City's Patrick McEleney skips in between Ryan Connolly and Ethan Boyle during his sublime man of the match performance at Finn Harps last season. Picture by Kevin Moore/MCI

"The message now is that the cup final was unbelievable and what a day. Everybody deserved it so much, but that's done now and it needs to be parked I think.

"We just need to get the message across that there are new ambitions. For me personally, there are things I want to do so, yeah, the FAI Cup Final is behind us now and it's just about getting ready, fine tuning for the new season."

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Having won three SSE Airtricity League of Ireland Premier Division titles with Dundalk as well as two FAI Cups while at Oriel Park, it’s winning trophies which motivates McEleney year after year and that fire in his belly is still burning as strongly as ever as he heads into the 2023 campaign. Indeed that desire is something he wants to install in the Candystripes’ dressing room.

"It's a huge season coming up but I've always been hungry for trophies and success, that's what keeps me driven," he explained.

"We want bigger and better next season. If you stand still you'll get punished and if you look at your past success or dwell on them, then you'll be punished so that will be the message getting driven home to the squad from me."

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After eventually finishing 13 points behind champions Shamrock Rovers, the Shantallow man says Stephen Bradley's side are still the team to beat but he believes the Candystripes also have other targets to improve on from 2022.

The 30-year-old was bitterly disappointed Derry fell at the first hurdle in the Europa Conference League last season and would love to rectify that statistic in 2023.

The former Oldham Athletic man and ex-Sunderland starlet felt Higgins’ side had their chances in both legs against Riga FC. In fact, despite trailing 2-0 from the first leg at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium, Derry had some clear-cut opportunities in Riga with the second leg still scoreless and those defeats still irk McEleney.

"We've got new challenges and we must look forward to those new challenges. I feel there are a lot of new challenges out there for us to try and achieve," he confirmed.

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"Obviously the league, obviously retaining the FAI Cup. We didn't exactly cover ourselves in any glory in Europe this year either, so there is so much out there that we can shoot for.

"That's what I'll be saying to the squad and I know the gaffer will be thinking the same, he'll also be driving that message home to everyone."

The talented midfielder produced one of the best individual performances from a City player in years, during last season's ‘come from behind’ North West derby win at Finn Harps.

McEleney rolled his sleeves up and put in a tremendous display at Ballybofey that day in July when Ryan Graydon cancelled out Robert Jones' first half goal, before James Akintunde headed home a stoppage time winner.

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His display at Finn Park - although on a much, much smaller scale - was similar to Lionel Messi's World Cup crusade with Argentina recently.

McEleney, like most who love the beautiful game, was an ardent fan of the on-field action at Qatar World Cup and he was delighted to see the PSG man finally get his just reward to cement his place, in McEleney's opinion, as the best footballer ever.

"The World Cup was amazing. I loved it from the first game to the last and I know people are saying it was a slow start but I loved every minute of it. I thought it was amazing.

"Plus we got the icing on the cake when the wee man went on to win it with Argentina. In my mind he's the best player ever and I'll fight his corner to the death saying that but Messi and Argentina were just unbelievable.

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"When you're watching football you just want to play, so we've had a few 5-a-side games and stuff like that during our break.

"That has been enjoyable too but I can't wait to get back training and playing ahead of the new season, especially after watching an unbelievable World Cup which I enjoyed so much."