DERRY man Patrick McEleney believes former Derry City manager Stephen Kenny is the perfect man to bring the good times back to Ireland.
The Dubliner, who will replace Mick McCarthy in August 2020 as senior manager, was officially unveiled as Ireland U21 boss yesterday and McEleney feels he’s the right man for the job.
“I think Stephen is made for the Ireland job,” he insisted.
“I think everybody has to buy into what he’s about. He’s proven and I think he has proven himself in Europe as well, as he has went out and matched the best.
“People will say that he’s going to have better players to work with, so I think it’s going to be great for him and getting the U21’s first and having a look around the set-up will help.”
Only a few months ago the Shantallow man’s team-mate Michael Duffy was touted for a place in Martin O’Neill’s squad and while League of Ireland players may get a better chance with the Ireland senior squad in years to come, he believes Kenny will be focusing on what’s best for the country.
“I’m not sure, because we as players just have to keep going and keep doing the right things domestically and sometimes you get wee bonuses like if someone takes a liking to you and gives you a chance, so we’ll just keep plugging away and see what happens.
“Obviously that will be the last thing the gaffer will be thinking about as he’ll be looking to put his own mark down.
“If anything came up internationally I would love to play but, to be honest, I have to look after myself and try to kick-on with Dundalk, before even thinking about international football.”
The 26-year-old also warned the rest of the League of Ireland that despite Kenny’s departure, it will be business as usual at Oriel Park, in fact not even skipper Stephen O’Donnell’s wedding day could keep the squad from preparing for next season.
McEleney confirmed that the squad had a ‘chat’ at O’Donnell’s wedding when news broke of Kenny’s exit.
“We were at Stevie’s wedding and we were all together,” he stated.
“I think that helped, because if everybody had have been separated and you heard the news you would have been sitting thinking about it yourself, but we were all able to talk about it and try to think of the best way forward but, look, it’s exciting now. Everyone will be asking; ‘are they going to be the same because Stephen isn’t there?’, so it’s a new challenge for us all.
“Look, as I said, I think it was a good thing that we were all together and not taking the news in yourself and saying to yourself ‘oh my god what’s going on here’. But we had a few words about it we all feel that it’s going to be an exciting time. Everyone is going to judge us because the gaffer is gone, but that challenge is something to look forward too and that’s something everyone in our squad is going to relish.”
The former Oldham Athletic man reckons that whoever gets the Dundalk job, is coming into a dressing room full of winners.
“We had a clue that he (Stephen Kenny) had a chance of getting the job, but he will be missed as he’s the best manager I have played for,” he added.
“His man management is unbelievable and he has been brilliant for me personally and I know the boys will miss him too, but you just have to go on and I think we are made of the right stuff and have the right players to kick-on.
“Listen it’s going to be different and obviously Stephen was brilliant for us, but the new manager is coming into an unbelievable group, who will help him as much as they can. So it’s going to be very interesting.
“I think Stephen’s departure will be the switch and everybody will be getting their heads down. We obviously enjoyed Stevie’s wedding but I think it’s time for the serious stuff now and because we have a serious group of players, full of winners, which is proven, there will be no complacency on our behalf.
“Look the league and FAI Cup is your bread and butter but we as a group of players are going to be judged on Europe and if we don’t do well in Europe, then people will be saying that we have failed and it hasn’t been great for Dundalk, which to be honest isn’t a bad thing.
“We as a squad sort of like being judged like that and we’ll look forward to trying to do the same next season.”
McEleney, who will be presented with the SSE Airtricity Player of the Month award for October today, was delighted how his year ended.
“It was brilliant to finish the year like that. As I said before leading up to the final the dream thing to happen in the final would be to score the winning goal and getting man of the match, so to do that I was over the moon,” he said.
“Look 2018 was was a disaster for me and I think I deserved a wee break to be honest. I was lucky to come back to such a good team, I think when I came back we were only a couple of points clear so to go on and do the double was amazing.”