Old boy Kelly can’t separate former loves

AIB ALL-IRELAND CLUB SFC FINAL:

Old boy Kelly can’t separate former loves

There’s no point in seeking his verdict on the final either. Having played with both clubs, the former Mayo defender will gladly sit on the fence and suffer the splinters.

Back now with his home club of Kilmaine, it was the Dublin club who he lined out with so memorably in 2008 on their way to picking up the Andy Merrigan Cup.

Based as a garda in the capital at the time, fellow clubman Brian Maloney and himself were two of four Mayomen on the Marino panel that St Patrick’s Day against Nemo Rangers, the others being Niall Dunne and Alan Costello.

Before them, there was Paul Navin and after Kelly came Austin O’Malley, while current Mayo physio Liam Moffatt also worked with Vincent’s.

“There’s been a fair pile of Mayo lads all right. It just goes to show we were all welcomed with open arms. It suited where we were living and I was working with one of the Vincent’s lads too. Brian and myself, when we joined, knew it wasn’t going to be a bad move and there would be a reward at the end of it.

“The two other Mayo lads there at the time, Niall Dunne and Alan Costello, had been on to join and at no stage were we treated as outsiders or anything like that. Any nights out or social events we were involved.”

The biggest demonstration of how much Vincent’s took Kelly to their bosom came two days after the ’08 final when they attended his father’s funeral. Peter Kelly had passed away the day before the game but he played at the wishes of his parents. How glad he was that he did.

“As a young lad growing up, your ambition is to win an All-Ireland, but coming from a small club like I’m from that’s not necessarily a club one,” recalls Kelly, who was so vital in the earlier wins over Seneschalstown and Tyrrellspass. “When the opportunity arises and you’re in the position there is nowhere else you want to be.

“An All-Ireland final is an All-Ireland final but with a club these are the lads you would be hanging around with all of the time. I was living and work local to St Vincent’s and even on nights when there wasn’t anything on you’d be down at the club playing snooker and that.”

Two years later and Kelly was in Mitchels’ colours in a county final, losing to Ballintubber. He left a season later to return to Kilmaine but knew it was only a case of when, not if, the town club would prosper.

He also appreciates Castlebar’s run to today’s final is for many in the town a relief from the concerns about potential job losses in Elverys, which has its headquarters in the town.

“They’ve only upset the odds for people who don’t really know them. Anyone who’s followed Castlebar the last couple of years would know that the talent was coming through and just maybe when they got the hoodoo of winning a county title off their backs they would be able to express themselves.

“Nationally, people might have been shocked at them beating Corofin and St Brigid’s and then Dr Crokes but it wouldn’t have surprised those who know them.”

Both Castlebar and Vincent’s have their own idiosyncrasies, says Kelly, but are fuelled by the same undying volunteer spirit.

“You see the amount of people behind the scenes and not really getting or looking for the recognition for it. I think of Christy ‘Sweets’ there in Vincent’s who stands on the dressing room door while teams are training making sure that everything is safe. When the last team finishes training that’s when he heads home.

“In Castlebar, there are lads behind the team and looking after things in An Sportann and the pitches and not getting much publicity.”

He marvels at how Vincent’s players have performed so well in the shadow of the club’s national icons, but he’s just as impressed by Castlebar’s strength of character.

“When people look at Vincent’s they think of tradition, and it’s probably a bit harsh on the lads around now as they want to make their own history. Because Vincent’s had won so many county finals and dominated Dublin football for years, they would always be compared to that.

“In the drawn Dublin final Vincent’s were a point down towards the end against Ballymun, and Castlebar had been a man down against Brigid’s in the Connacht final. Neither threw in the towel.

They didn’t fear being put in that position and they have also shown they can play from the front as well.

“Dr Crokes levelled against Castlebar but they pulled away, their heads didn’t drop. The club scene at that level is new to Castlebar but the lads have no fear.”

And that’s as close to a prediction as you can get from the dual citizen Kelly.

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