Patrick McEleney showed Dundalk fans that he is ready to assume creative responsibilities for the Lilywhites with a decisive contribution in their opening night triumph over Shamrock Rovers.
There had been suggestions that Dundalk would suffer this season in the absence of Daryl Horgan, who signed for Preston North End in December, but McEleney feels that the Louth outfit are “more than up to the challenge” of moving on without the winger and he is leading by example.
The Derry native was a key player for Stephen Kenny’s side as they got their season off to a winning start against Rovers, providing an assist for Ciaran Kilduff as the Lilywhites clinched a 2-1 victory.
“I think we did well. The first game is usually like that – 100 miles an hour – and I think it’s whoever can find that final pass [who wins]. I think that was the difference,” McEleney told eirSport.
“To be fair to Rovers they gave us a great game, even with 10 men, but we’re delighted.”
McEleney showed great determination in the build-up to Dundalk’s second goal, stealing the ball from Daniel Devine at the edge of the area before floating a pin-point cross onto the head of Kilduff, who powered past Tomer Chencinski for the second goal of the night.
The former Derry City attacker picked up the man-of-the-match award after the game and acknowledged that the departure of Horgan placed a greater onus on the likes of himself and goalscorer Robbie Benson to provide that creative spark in midfield.
“The gaffer said that to both us before the season started, so it’s up to us to take it in our stride and try to handle it,” admitted McEleney. “But I think we’re more than up to the challenge.”