McEleney: I’m Fit and Raring To Go
Patrick McEleney has declared himself fit and raring to go after enduring a frustrating end to Dundalk’s successful 2019 campaign.
A hamstring injury, sustained in the FAI Cup semi-final win over Sligo Rovers last September, meant the 27-year-old had to watch the FAI Cup final defeat to Shamrock Rovers and both legs of the Unite the Union Cup tie with Linfield from the sidelines.
The Lilywhites squad returned to pre-season training on January 6th and after a week of intense sessions under the watchful eye of strength and conditioning coach Graham Norton, ‘Fats’ said he was itching to get back on the pitch.
“I’m excited to be back,” said McEleney. “I obviously missed the last part of the season and the two cup finals and that was really disappointing because I felt that I had got myself into a good run of games. I think I played 30 odd and it was really disappointing so I was itching to get back.”
After working hard to get himself back into contention for the FAI Cup showdown with Rovers, McEleney suffered a recurrence of the injury in the days leading up to the game, leaving him and the suspended Chris Shields kicking their heels in frustration in the stands.
“Going from experience, I knew it was going to be touch and go,” he said. “I convinced myself that it was going to be okay but then I had a setback when I tore it again and the bruising came back. I knew I was done then.
“It was gut-wrenching watching at the Aviva,” he added. “Before that, we were on a brilliant run. We seemed to be flowing and it felt like we were never going to be beaten but missing myself and Shieldsy in the cup final was a big blow. It’s in the past now, though. I’ve done a lot of work in the off-season and I’m excited to get going.”
Lilywhites head coach Vinny Perth has bolstered his squad with the addition of three new signings and McEleney has been impressed by what he has seen from Greg Sloggett, Darragh Leahy and Will Patching.
“They’re three great signings,” he said. “I’ve played against Greg when he was with Derry and the biggest compliment I can give him is that he’s a really tough opponent. He makes great runs off you and he was able to match me physically.
“Darragh is obviously an Irish U21 international. Stephen Kenny plays him in every game and Will has really impressed everybody. He has great touches and great feet. You can see why he was at Manchester City and played underage for England. His touch is really tight and he has two great feet.”
The reigning SSE Airtricity League champions play their first game of 2020 on Friday night when UCD come to Oriel Park before heading to Spain for a five-day training camp which will see them take on CFR Cluj from Romania and Russian outfit CSKA Moscow and McEleney is looking forward to getting back into the thick of things.
“Everybody has worked hard in the off-season and we’ve given ourselves a good base,” he said. “The key for us is to try and stay a step ahead. It’s game time that we need now and we have a friendly on Friday to get us up and running before we go to Spain.
Tickets for Friday evening’s friendly with UCD at Oriel Park will go on sale on Wednesday, January 15th at 10am.