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'I get slagged so much for not heading the ball, I think I was due one' - FAI Cup hero McEleney

Man-of-the-match Patrick McEleney was elated with his 73rd minute winner for Dundalk on Sunday.

McEleney lifts the FAI Cup alongside Michael Duffy and Dean Jarvis.
McEleney lifts the FAI Cup alongside Michael Duffy and Dean Jarvis.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

THE HAPPINESS WAS etched all over Patrick McEleney’s face on Sunday afternoon as he walked off the pitch at the Aviva Stadium, his precise header with 17 minutes left on the clock securing yet another double for Dundalk with a 2-1 victory over Cork City.

After a whirlwind two minute spell in the first half where team-mate Sean Hoare gave the Lilywhites the lead before conceding the foul for Kieran Sadlier’s equaliser from the penalty spot, McEleney scored the decisive strike to secure the FAI Cup.

“I get slagged so much about heading the ball, so I think I was due one,” he joked after full-time. “I think I’ve scored one in my career and to be fair I wasn’t playing that great, so I needed something like that. But I’m over the moon.”

Sean Gannon whipped a sublime cross into the area, with the Derry forward peeling away untracked before heading accurately past Mark McNulty for what proved the decisive strike in an intriguing final which attracted over 30,000 supporters.

Unbelievable cross,” said McEleney. “Ganno has that in his locker. I just took off into the box into the box — that was a big space and I knew he could put it on my head if he hits it well here. But I’m just over the moon, unbelievable cross.”

The forward reflected that conceding just two minutes after taking the lead was a setback, and one which was uncharacteristic of a Dundalk side which kept 21 clean sheets and conceded just 20 goals en route to their fourth SSE Airtricity League title in five years.

Patrick McEleney scores their second goal of the game past Mark McNulty The forward heads past Mark McNulty to give Dundalk a 2-1 lead. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“It was disappointing, it’s not really like us. Once we go ahead, we can control games. I think if we got over that hurdle in the first couple of minutes, we could have done that. It is what it is, we went on and won it.”

The 26-year-old spent two seasons at Oriel Park before enduring a frustrating spell at League One side Oldham Athletic, where he found game-time hard to come by.

The striker lit up the Premier Division with countless goal-of-the-season contenders last year, and admits full-heartedly that he was glad to return to the Louth club to be able to enjoy day’s like Sunday’s cup success.

Patrick McEleney celebrates at the final whistle The striker spend two seasons with Dundalk before moving to Oldham Athletic. He moved back to Oriel Park at the beginning of this year. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“One hundred per cent,” he replied when asked if he was happy to have come back to Dundalk. “I haven’t had great memories here [at the Aviva Stadium] — I’ve won one final and lost a few, so I was putting myself under a lot of pressure today. Now, I’m just buzzing.

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“I think we are getting back to where we were when we got into the Europa League. And that’s going to be our sights next year.

“Obviously the bread and butter is the league and cups, but our sights will be on Europe and that’s where we want to do well.”

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Aaron Gallagher

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