Sport Soccer

Friday 22 September 2017

Derry star McEleney eyes senior squad after North switch

PATRICK McEleney is targeting a place in Michael O'Neill's Northern Ireland squad after switching his allegiance.

The 20-year old Derry City star, a Republic of Ireland U-19 international, has confirmed that he has decided to play with Northern Ireland after consulting recently with O'Neill and Stephen Robinson, the North's U-21 boss.

A call to Celtic's Paddy McCourt also helped him make up his mind.

McEleney and his brother Shane have bucked trends by swapping the Republic for the North -- and the winger says he has every intention of making O'Neill's team.

"The senior team has to be where you look to," he said.

"Alan Blaney has played in it while in the Irish League and a few boys have done it. That has to be the aim."

McEleney's first aim will be to make it onto Robinson's U-21 roster for the November 13 friendly against England at Bloomfield Road.

His brother Shane played in the recent friendly against Hungary and scored in a 3-2 defeat.

"Shane was in Hungary and got on very well. He came back with nothing but good reports about the set-up," he said.

Plans

"After that, I had a few words with Michael O'Neill. He was telling me about his plans for the future and I liked what he had to say.

"Michael and Stephen laid out their plans and that made my decision for me."

And a conversation with McCourt was key too.

McEleney added: "I spoke briefly with Paddy and he was very supportive. When I was over at Sunderland and feeling homesick, he was a great help to me and he's given me some great advice about my international future too.

"International football is where every player wants to be -- and if I keep working on my game at Derry, hopefully I'll get called up to Northern Ireland."

McEleney had received a call from Noel King for last month's U-21 qualifier against Italy, but he has revealed that he turned down the chance to travel to Casarano with the Republic.

McEleney will line out for the Candystripes in the FAI Cup final against St Patrick's Athletic next Sunday week.

With Rory Patterson back from suspension, Declan Devine will be at full strength for the final, with the exception of the cup-tied Conor Murphy.

"We're not carrying any injuries. We have had our injury problems but now, at a time when you want everybody fit, we have everybody fit. That's vital and competition for places is very high at this stage," revealed the Derry boss.

Irish Independent

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