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Derry star McEleney aiming for medal to end tough year

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Goal-den shot: Patrick McEleney is hungry to hit his goal target of 10 for the season in tomorrow's FAI Cup final

Goal-den shot: Patrick McEleney is hungry to hit his goal target of 10 for the season in tomorrow's FAI Cup final

Lorcan Doherty

Goal-den shot: Patrick McEleney is hungry to hit his goal target of 10 for the season in tomorrow's FAI Cup final

Patrick McEleney needs just two more things to round off the 2014 season perfectly; an FAI Cup final goal and another winner's medal.

Despite the disappointing league showing from Derry City this year, McEleney has been one of the stand out performances at the Brandywell, as he has enjoyed his most prolific season since joining the club in 2010.

McEleney has managed nine goals from midfield this year, three times as many as last season. Just as impressively, he has been responsible for 14 assists, but he won't be satisfied unless Derry manage to see off St. Patrick's Athletic in tomorrow's FAI Cup decider at the Aviva Stadium.

"My target was 10 goals so hopefully I can get it in the final," he explained.

"I'm happy with the assists, but I'd still like to chip in with a few more goals.

"Last year was the first time since I've been here that I didn't win anything, so I have to make amends for that and there's no bigger way to do that than at the Aviva in the FAI Cup final."

McEleney's goals and assists tally means that he has been involved in 23 of Derry City's 69 goals this season, exactly a third of his team's entire goal tally.

McEleney's rise to prominence is in direct contrast to the early days of the season, when he was not so highly thought of by former boss Roddy Collins.

The lowest point of McEleney's season came away at Bray Wanderers in April when he was substituted after less than half an hour. It was a move which angered him at the time, but in hindsight he believes the incident may have been to his benefit.

"I think that helped me, but I don't think it benefitted the team that day," he recalled.

"Roddy had his own methods and he did what he thought was best for the team, but I think it helped me as a person.

"I'm the type of person that if you do something like that to me I'll get angry whereas other people might fold and fade away. I'd thank him for that now."

Collins' replacement has been much more beneficial for McEleney, with Peter Hutton showing faith in the 22-year-old talisman.

"Peter has been top class for me," he agreed.

"He has given me the freedom to go and play, but also he wants me to do the other side and by doing that it has got me fitter and doing more things. He understands my game."

The last thing McEleney wants this Sunday is a repeat of the recent league game between Derry and St. Pat's at the Brandywell, a game in which Derry dominated for long periods, only to lose out to Aaron Greene's second-half goal. The Candystripes simply must take their chances when they come, the midfielder insists.

"We have missed a lot of chances and we haven't been clinical enough and maybe that's down to confidence," he admitted.

"If you're winning games you take your chances and as each game goes on you start scoring more and more and you get a bit of momentum.

"We haven't had that and the last three games have been poor, but I wouldn't read too much into that because there's been a lot of changes and I'm sure people are focusing on the Cup final and we will be ready for it."

Pat's are strong favourites going into Sunday's final, but they were also strong favourites in 2012. That tag means nothing on the day according to McEleney.

"They are favourites and we all know that," he continued.

"They are going to have more of the ball and it's just whether they can hurt us when they have it or whether we let them hurt us; it's down to us at the end of the day.

"We battered them at the Brandywell and they battered us in Dublin so they're favourites, but it's a Cup final.

"If you ask any footballer they would tell you that a Cup final is just a one off and whoever turns up on the day is going to be lifting the cup.

"Although they played well the last time, we turned up. I'm sure they will turn up again because they have top players and everyone is comfortable on the ball in every position, but it's just down to us. If we want it, we'll win it."

McEleney may only be 22-years-old, but he is coming to the end of his fifth season at Derry, during which time he has picked up a First Division winner's medal, a League Cup winner's medal, and an FAI Cup winner's medal.

He has played in no shortage of huge games in his career already and he is ready for another one come Sunday.

"I don't really get nervous," he explained.

"I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. I'll look forward to it. The last time I played poorly in the final so I owe myself something so I'm looking forward to it."

FAI Cup final: Derry City v St Patrick's Athletic, Aviva Stadium, 3.30 pm (RTE 2)

Belfast Telegraph