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Ruaidhri Higgins defends Derry City over Dundalk’s ‘lack of respect’ jibe after Patrick McEleney

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Derry City manager Ruaidhri Higgins says his club acted in a 'best possible manner' in the midst of a 'difficult situation'. Pic: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Derry City manager Ruaidhri Higgins says his club acted in a 'best possible manner' in the midst of a 'difficult situation'. Pic: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Derry City manager Ruaidhri Higgins says his club acted in a 'best possible manner' in the midst of a 'difficult situation'. Pic: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Derry City boss Ruaidhri Higgins has said the club 'acted in the best possible manner' in dealing with the awkward announcement of Patrick McEleney's pre-contract agreement to return to the Candystripes.

The Thursday night release of the news caused consternation in Dundalk in the hour after their Europa League victory over Newtown, a game where McEleney played a starring role.

Lilywhites boss Vinny Perth said Derry had shown a 'complete and utter lack of respect' and he hit out at his former assistant Higgins, stating that he should have 'known better' especially as 'he has done very well out of this football club for a long time.'

Higgins responded after last night's 1-0 defeat to St Patrick's Athletic, stating that Derry put out the statement because they were aware the story was going to break in a local newspaper on Friday morning.

He added that the club opted against putting out a missive before Dundalk's European match because it would have been too much of a distraction to McEleney.

"We could have put it out on Wednesday but didn't because Dundalk were playing in Europe on the Thursday," said Higgins.

"One of our local journalists was going to run with the story on Friday morning anyway. He got wind of it. Everyone knew it was happening.

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"The only window for the club to announce it, and the club should always announce things like that, was after the game. There's no great time to announce those sort of things.

"Listen, I had an amazing time at Dundalk, a lot of good friends and a lot of amazing memories and the last thing I want is to get into a dispute with Dundalk's manager because I have too much respect for the club and I wouldn't do that.

"Although Dundalk were in a difficult situation, we were in a difficult situation because the story was breaking anyway. In a bad situation our club have acted in the best possible manner, that's how I felt and I still feel that. I don't want to make any enemies at Dundalk obviously with my history there and the success we had together, I've the utmost respect for the people there."

Higgins said he was not surprised to be called out by Perth in the statement but declined to elaborate on that, admitting that he don't know how he would have responded if he was in his opposite number's shoes. He said Perth could call him if they wanted to discuss things.

The eyebrow raising aspect of the statement was Derry's assertion they would like to bring forward the deal to this month if it were possible. That would involve agreeing a fee for McEleney who is out of contract at the end of the year.

Bad blood surrounding Thursday's back and forth would lead to the impression that would be a non-runner but Higgins suggested that chairman Philip O'Doherty has been speaking with his Dundalk counterpart, the US-based Bill Hulsizer.

"The two chairmen have been in touch but I can't shed any more light on it. As far as I'm aware there's been nothing close to being agreed or anything like that," he said. "There was brief discussions between the clubs."

Dundalk are looking to trim down their squad in this window and midfield is one area where they appear willing to cut back.

However, there's €300,000 at stake for each round in Europe and they are booked for a Conference League clash with Estonian side Levadia Tallinn.

Higgins admitted McEleney has stood out in recent weeks and offered the view that nobody could doubt the integrity of the 28-year-old.

He said that family reasons were driving the playmaker's desire to return to his locality.

Derry are also understood to be hopeful of bringing Dundalk winger Michael Duffy back to the club for similar reasons.

"Patrick is at a point in his life where his kids and partner are moving back to Derry and he's keen to join the club," said McEleney.

"His commitment to Dundalk can't be in question at all. If you look at his performance on Thursday night and his performance against us the previous week, I thought he was Dundalk's best player over the two games.

"He's a real professional but listen we're delighted that in future seasons he's going to be back at the Brandywell."


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