Kelly bravely took charge of the Wee County’s fixture against Armagh just days after his mother’s passing – and has now revealed his daughter, Tara, was rushed to hospital on the Sunday before that game.
Kelly was in Thurles to watch Tipperary’s match with Longford on March 11 with his 11-year-old daughter when she began to experience stomach pains.
After Louth’s team doctor examined her, Tara underwent an emergency appendix operation on that Sunday night.
The next day, Kelly was informed about his mother’s condition and she sadly passed away two days before Louth lost to Armagh in Drogheda.
Kelly said last night: “People spoke about the fact my mother had passed but my daughter was rushed into hospital on the Sunday for an emergency appendix operation. There were nights in hospital with my daughter and days in the hospital with my Mum. You think it doesn’t affect the lads (Louth players) but ultimately it does, it affects my thinking around them but they’re a great bunch of lads.
“It’s been difficult but we’re coming out the right side of it. I was down in Thurles on that Saturday night, watching Longford and Tipperary, and my daughter wasn’t well. She had pains in her stomach. The Louth doctor got a look at her and she’s a good kid, and wouldn’t complain too much. She had an emergency operation on Sunday night. The next day, I was told about my Mum.”
Kelly still managed to steer Louth to promotion when just over a week after his mother was laid to rest, he plotted victory over Tipperary at Semple Stadium.
Explaining how he managed to put his grief to one side, Kelly said: “It’s all life and football is an essential part of it. Not too many people have won All-Irelands in Louth but I had a great grandfather (Larry McCormack) who captained teams in 1910 and 1912. That shaped my way of thinking … it’s a life.” And Kelly is pleased to report Tara is very much on the mend.
He said: “She’s back at school and, touch wood, she’s coming out the right side of it. When you hear appendix, you don’t realise how sick they can become with it. It was a worrying time but she’s making progress.”
In two seasons, Kelly has overseen remarkable progress with Louth, securing successive promotions to take Louth from Division 4 to Division 2, where they’ll operate next year. And Kelly makes no apologies for stating that when it comes to winning matches, his players will do whatever it takes. Louth had two players black-carded in the game against Tipperary that clinched promotion, which prompted Kelly’s opposite number, Liam Kearns, to suggest that the winners were “fairly cynical.”
Kelly, ahead of tomorrow’s repeat meeting against the Premier County, with Division 3 silverware on offer at Croke Park, responded: “Historically in Gaelic Football, it’s always been part of it. It was there before the black card and will be there after it. If there are straight reds, it’s never going to change. Ultimately, players are winners. With the best will in the world, I can understand where Liam was coming from. There were times when I stood on the line and wrongdoings go against you and you think ‘why us’? Michael Quinlivan (Tipperary’s player who was also black-carded) is an outstanding guy and he was straight over to me after the match to congratulate us.
“But he did what he did because he knew that if the ball went into the net, Tipp were definitely going to be beaten. I can understand fully where Liam is at and it could be me next Saturday peddling the same statement. But you have to win. We’re not a dirty team in any fashion, we try to do it right. Our philosophy is to try to play the game. People talk about the modern game and the days of old. When you think of it in times gone by, you threw it up on the 21-yard line and kicked it out, with Seamus O’Hanlon (former Louth midfielder) rising and winning possession.
“But Tyrone put paid to that with (Kerry’s) Darragh Ó Se in the 2000s, when they let him catch it and surrounded him. Possession is so precious now and what you do with it when you have the ball is very important.
“We try to retain it and try to break at pace – there’s no secret to what we do.”