Monday 18 December 2017

Oriel star stuck in international limbo

Patrick McEleney
Patrick McEleney

Dundalk midfielder Patrick McEleney admits he's in limbo when it comes to a possible international career.

The Derry native will be in action for his club yet again this evening, against his hometown club as Dundalk face Derry City in a replay of their FAI Cup semi-final.

His form with the Lilywhites this season has caused some to wonder about an international call-up for the 24-year-old midfielder but, like many issues relating to life in the North, it's complicated.

He has played for the Republic at underage level and he was in the same U19 squad as current star Robbie Brady, back in 2009, and his brother, Shane, went on to win an U21 cap for the Republic but Shane then 'defected' to Northern Ireland.

In 2012 Patrick also decided to declare for the North, following discussions with the Republic's U21 boss Noel King, but while he needed to go through a paperwork process with FIFA to formally declare for the North, he never made any progress with that move and is now in between the two states.

The former Sunderland man has impressed in Dundalk's games in the Champions League and Europa League this term, though he has yet to make the same impression as Daryl Horgan who was told he'd have been included in the Republic's senior squad this week only for the club's intense schedule of games.

Patrick has backed his team-mate Horgan to make the grade at international level but he's not so sure of his own prospects.

"It's up in the air but I could still play for the Republic, if asked," McEleney told The Herald, his Dundalk side facing into another busy week.

"If the call came, it's something I'd like to do, I want to keep going up the ladder in football so I will just keep playing for Dundalk and see where it takes me, I need to keep performing for my club."

He has been left in limbo as his exit from the Republic's set up was never formalised with FIFA. "I don't think I signed anything, I had to get a passport sent away but I didn't do it, so I am in no man's land at the minute," Patrick says.

"Shane played for the Republic's U21s but I never did, I was supposed to go and play for Northern Ireland, and get a passport and get the documentation sent away but I didn't. So I am nowhere."

But he feels that winger Horgan should be called up. "I'd love to see Daryl get into the Irish squad, he deserves it, he has been the best player in the league, in my eyes, for the last couple of years, he's outstanding."

Dundalk boss Stephen Kenny has to juggle his squad again tonight for that unwanted replay in the Brandywell tonight, Stephen O'Donnell definitely out through suspension. Derry manager Kenny Shiels also has personnel issues to deal with, though City are boosted by the return from injury of Ryan McBride after a long spell out.

Also tonight, Finn Harps host Sligo Rovers.

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