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Higgins is braced for a huge challenge, as McEleney agrees Derry return

SSE Airtricity Premier Division


Patrick McEleney. Credit: INPHO/Tommy Dickson

Patrick McEleney. Credit: INPHO/Tommy Dickson

©INPHO/Tommy Dickson

Patrick McEleney. Credit: INPHO/Tommy Dickson

Ruaidhri Higgins is in no doubt about the size of the task facing his players tonight as they head to title-challenging St Patrick’s Athletic.

Stephen O’Donnell’s men have surprised many this season by keeping in touch with Shamrock Rovers and Sligo Rovers at the top of the table, but Higgins has not been shocked by their good form.

Higgins himself has turned fortunes around at Derry City, and he is hoping to continue an impressive away record as the Candystripes look to build on last week’s win over Waterford.

“It will be a very hard game,” he said. “I’ve been down there when they were very unfortunate to lose the game against Shamrock Rovers. I actually thought over the 90 minutes they were the better team. They have beaten Sligo at home recently as well and are at the top end of the league for a reason.

"They are a very, very good team and they are well coached and there’s obviously a lot of good players and staff there. We are very aware of their strengths and we know that we need to be well prepared to get a positive result out of the game.”

The City boss is content that his vision for his team is slowly but surely materialising, with last week’s performance against Waterford an encouraging one.

“In terms of possession of the ball, and control of the game, it’s what I like,” he said.

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“There are still areas that need improvement without doubt. As I said, this year is all about developing a team and building foundations and I think so far it has gone well, but we know there are improvements to be made and we’ll improve over time.”

Meanwhile, Patrick McEleney has agreed to return to Derry, having signed a pre-contract with his hometown club.

McEleney started with Derry City back in 2010, and in his five years at the Brandywell he won the First Division title, the League Cup and the FAI Cup.

He departed for Dundalk in 2016 where he won 10 trophies under Stephen Kenny, Vinny Perth and Filippo Giovagnoli.

It is understood that McEleney’s relationship with City boss Higgins is key to the move, with both developing a close bond in over a decade together at Derry City and Dundalk combined.

The club statement read: “Derry City FC can confirm that Patrick McEleney has agreed a pre-contract at the club which will see the midfielder return home when his current deal at Dundalk expires.

“City have made enquiries to the Louth club about releasing McEleney in the current transfer window, however no agreement on that has been reached as yet. Derry are keen however to put an end to ongoing speculation about the player’s future.”

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