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McEleney ready for 'massive' Euro tie after long road to recovery


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Dundalk's Patrick McEleney. Photo: Sportsfile

Dundalk's Patrick McEleney. Photo: Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Dundalk's Patrick McEleney. Photo: Sportsfile

Dundalk need to take care of business against Waterford tonight before they can fully concentrate on next Wednesday's Champions League clash with Slovenian champions Celje.

And playmaker Patrick McEleney makes no apologies for admitting that game was the focus for his latest recovery from injury.

McEleney was a second-half sub in Tuesday's FAI Cup victory over Waterford - the first in a quick-fire double-header against the Blues.

Vinny Perth's side desperately need to get back on the winning trail in the league with Shamrock Rovers streaking out of sight.

However, managers and players have acknowledged they will be judged on their European displays and McEleney is desperate to press himself into contention for the clash on neutral soil in Hungary. Dundalk need his creativity badly too.

Limped

Hence the anxious looks on the bench a fortnight ago when he limped off with a groin problem, minutes after he was sprung into action to try and turn a draw against St Patrick's Athletic into a win. The 27-year-old hasn't started a game since last October.

"I got loads of treatment and rehab and I'm just buzzing to be back," said McEleney. "I just had to throw myself in the deep end on Tuesday. There's not that many games left, and the Champions League is around the corner. If I break down, I break down, but I need to be playing in the Champions League because it doesn't come around so often. It's what you play for."

McEleney admits that Dundalk have found it hard since the resumption to click into gear. The traditional slow starters have been punished for their mistakes, and he's hopeful that the European excitement can bring joy on both fronts. Even the prospect of games behind closed doors didn't detract from the buzz of what he views as a reasonable enough draw.

"We have to take care of Waterford and then we'll get properly into it," the Derryman told the LOI Weekly podcast.

"We have a home draw (v Molde or KuPs) if we get through and we have to think about that. It's a massive opportunity. I was sitting up waiting for the draws. It's the best competition in the world so what else would you rather be doing?"

Irish Independent