There appeared little on when the 24-year-old picked the ball up to the right of goal on 32 minutes but after cutting inside he unleashed a stunning left foot shot that curled over the despairing Freddy Hall to the top left hand corner for his second goal in as many matches.
The Derry man was challenged by manager Stephen Kenny to step things up this season and on the evidence of the first three matches, he is certainly delivering.
Both sides had chances to open the scoring prior to McEleney’s piece of magic in what was an end-to-end affair.
The home side came out of the traps with the bit between their teeth and had a number of early chances. Firstly Robbie Benson — making his 50th competitive appearance for the club — headed just wide from a McEleney free kick after just 90 seconds.
Jamie McGrath then fired into the side netting before Brian Gartland flashed a header just wide.
Limerick eventually grew into the game and they had a golden opportunity to break the deadlock on 12 minutes when Shaun Kelly’s sweeping ball in from the right was just about taken off the head of striker Rodrigo Tosi by Paddy Barrett.
Dundalk had to ride their luck from Stephen Kenny’s resulting corner, however, which Gabriel Sava spilled, only to redeem himself with a fine follow-up save to deny Paul O’Conor.
The home side soon recovered their composure and a super ball out of defence by Barrett on 21 minutes released McEleney, only for the Derry man’s shot to come off Robbie Williams for a corner.
Benson and Michael Duffy would go close afterwards before the stunning breakthrough on 32 minutes from McEleney.
Dundalk continued to apply the pressure after taking the lead, with Ciaran Kilduff going close on a couple of occasions either side of another McEleney attempt that flashed just wide of the post.
Just after the hour Benson also went close again when his left-foot strike flashed inches the wrong side of the post.
Dundalk’s failure to kill the game off meant Martin Russell’s visitors were in it right until the end, with Rodrigo Tosi passing up a good opening on 69 minutes when he headed straight at Sava from Lee J Lynch’s cross.
Limerick continued to press late on with keeper Freddy Hall heading wide with the last kick of the game as Dundalk held out for a win.
Sava; Gannon, Gartland, Barrett, Vemmelund; McGrath, Clifford, Benson, Duffy (Shields 81); McEleney; Kilduff.
Hall; Kelly, Williams, Whitehead, Robson; Kenny (Turner 61), Duggan, Lynch, O’Conor, Clarke (Ogbene 82); Tosi.
R Harvey (Dublin).