'It's only an international friendly, so I don't really have to commit to any side' - Derry City defender Shane McEleney keeping his international options open

The Derry-born defender has been capped at youth level by Ireland but has been included in the Northern Ireland under-21 squad to take on Hungary by Stephen Robinson
Derry City defender Shane McEleney has admitted that it was a 'shock' to receive a call up for the Northern Ireland under-21 team.

The 21-year-old was included in Stephen Robinson's recent U21 squad for the friendly international against Hungary on August 15.

"It's a shock to get recognised for the Northern Ireland under-21s," McEleney told the Londonderry Sentinel. "But I'm really happy about it and hopefully it will help kick my career on a bit."

The Derry-born defender has nine caps for the Republic of Ireland under-19s as well as one under-21 cap, while another Derry City player included in the squad, David McDaid, has also been capped at youth level by the Republic. Despite this however, McEleney admits that he is merely keeping his options open.

"It's only an international friendly, so I don't really have to commit to any side. I haven't been called up to the [Republic of Ireland] under-21s this year and I know that (Republic of Ireland under-21 manager) Noel King has been watching me a couple of times and I'd have liked to have been called up.

"But I want to keep my options open and see what the Northern Ireland set up is all about and hopefully I can go and impress this week, maybe pledge allegiance."

McEleney revealed that Northern Ireland senior manager Michael O'Neill was instrumental to his decision, saying that the former Shamrock Rovers manager was relentless in his attempts to persuade the defender to switch association.

"Michael O'Neill is a gentleman. He was torturing me for a wee while to be honest (about switching association), but now I'm going to go see what it's all about."

Meanwhile, McEleney believes that Derry City can push for a European spot and says that the Candystripes will have a stronger squad when key players return.

"We have a stronger squad coming back for the upcoming game against Bohemians, with the likes of Stewart Greacen, Rory Patterson and Kevin Deery, so touch wood, we can get a win and press on.

He continued: "Two or three good results and you're right back in contention again, so hopefully we can press for Europe, that would be the most realistic aim at the minute.

"Stewart Greacen coming back is competition for me, surely, but that's what being in a football team is all about, that's what keeps everyone on their toes.

"It keeps everyone fresh and can't do the squad any wrong," concluded the defender.