Anderston, Glasgow born inside right and sometimes right half Ralph McElhaney began his football career with Dreghorn Juniors and made his entry to Scottish League football with Third Lanark in 1894 from where he signed for Glasgow Celtic in April 1895. and made his Celtic debut in a 2-0 win over Clyde on April 27th 1895. Playing at inside right he only went on to make one further League appearance for The Bhoys, playing in the following match a 2-1 win over Dundee, the final League match of the 1894-95 season. With little opportunity at Celtic Park McElhaney joined Clyde in August 1895 where he made 5 appearances before a move to Partick Thistle, whrre he scored once in a single appearance, and he later moved south to join Southern League Tottenham Hotspur in the 1896 close season.
He had a single season with Tottenham, scoring 7 goals in 20 appearances for Spurs, before moving to Swindon Town in the summer of 1897. He made just 3 Southern League appearances for Swindon during 1897-98, and after playing for Scottish clubs Beith in 1898 and East Stirlingshire in 1899, he joined Southern League Second Division club Brentford early in 1900, where he scored 11 goals in 1900-01 as Brentford won promotion to the First Division as Second Division Champions. He had one further season at Brentford scoring 13 goals in 50 appearances before returning to Scotland to join Dunipace in 1902, but once again returned to England after a season to join Southern League club Grays United in 1903. He finished his career with a spell at non league club Southall, joining them in 1904 before his retirement in 1905.