With events in Tallaght the big focus this week, Patrick McEleney recalls what happened at Dundalk when they lost their influential title winning manager.
“Stephen (Kenny) went for the Ireland job and then we won the League, we nearly did the treble that year under Vinny,” said McEleney.
“Even after that we got to the Europa League group stages.”
The context is that Lincoln City are in talks with Shamrock Rovers’ boss Stephen Bradley. As Rovers manager, Bradley broke Dundalk’s hold on the League.
All eyes are on what happens with the Hoops and their bid for the three in a row. Whatever happens, the game will quickly move on.
McEleney knows it. He left Dundalk after last season and is back at Derry City, playing an important role in his home town club holding top spot in the League above Rovers.
“Look, it’s hard for me to know what their players are thinking because I’m not in their dressing room,” he added.
“But Stephen (Bradley) is a top manager in the League who has done an amazing job and obviously he would be a loss if he goes because he has been so successful there.
“I know Sean Hoare personally and lads like that will be driving the dressing-room if Stephen goes. But it’s hard to really know what impact it would have if they lost their manager.”
And so the spotlight has shifted, albeit temporarily, from the Brandywell.
Derry fell under its full glare recently when, after such an impressive start to the season, they took just one point from games in quick succession against Drogheda and Shelbourne.
They responded by hammering UCD 7-1 and firing four goals at St Pat’s.
Speaking ahead of tonight’s Brandywell clash with Bohemians, McEleney said: “It was the first real time we were sort of questioned and maybe that comes with the territory when you’re playing really well and you’re a good side, which I think we are. Pressure comes with it.
“I think we answered that really well, getting two really good results.
“We had been winning games 2-1 and 1-0, scorelines like that, but I think that result against UCD was coming.
“We had been creating loads of chances against a lot of teams, especially in the Brandywell.
“Even in the previous games we had a bad half against Shels and we got bit, but that’s what happens in our League.”
The return of McEleney and Michael Duffy, who have won five Leagues between them, was hailed as a potential game-changer for the Candystripes.
There has been plenty said and written about having that sort of influence and experience in the dressing-room.
“Look, there’s obviously me, Michael, Will (Patching) and (Cameron) Dummigan who are well used to it but so far the lads have been amazing, it’s a really great tight knit group,” McEleney commented.
“In terms of that experience, it’s just a know-how in certain big games and throughout the season knowing what is needed and what kind of standards are needed.
“But to be honest when we came here it was already there. This is a properly run club with really, really top professionals.
“So it’s just tinkering with small things, really, trying to get it right.”
Nevertheless you can’t beat the sort of composure and know-how the likes of McEleney bring at crucial moments.
Think back to his winner against Shels at Tolka Park on March 4.
“Aye, you’re going to need that, you’re going to need big moments and people to step up at different times,” acknowledged the 29-year-old.
“I know it’s only just over the first round of games gone but we’ve had a lot of people answering questions at the right times.
“Look, it has to continue right through to November when the League finishes. Those big moments will be needed.
“But it’s brilliant. I knew it was going to be like this with Ruaidhri in charge.
“I said when I joined that I wasn’t coming here to put my feet up, I came home to win trophies because that’s all I know.
“It’s about working hard constantly. That’s what we have to do, and a lot of players have made a good start.”
Among that number are his former Dundalk colleague Patching and former Rovers starlet Brandon Kavanagh.
Together, the trio are a hard to stop creative unit. “I obviously knew Will already, he’s a special talent,” McEleney said.
“And Brandon, I only knew him from playing against him but he’s a top player and is going to be for a long time.
“He reminds me of Bernardo Silva, he does things unnoticed but is a brilliant technician. He works so hard and it’s great to play in behind him to watch what he can do.”
And his pal Duffy has still to return from a fractured tibia.
“It’s no secret that it was a bad injury and it was a disaster all round, a disaster for him personally and for us as a team,” said McEleney.
“It was just a big upsetting moment for all of us. He’s working hard, and he’ll be fit and ready when he’s back.”
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