Kelly homes in on Aviva final
SSE Airtricity League
New Dundalk signing Daniel Kelly is hoping to follow in the footsteps of his neighbour Sean Gannon by lining out for the club at the Aviva Stadium.
The Lansdowne Road venue is 'right in my front garden', according to the Ringsend native, and having made the breakthrough with Leinster Senior League side St Patrick's CY in the shadow of the national stadium, it has always been an ambition of Kelly's to play there.
Now, following a meteoric rise which saw him start last season at Bray Wanderers before moving on to Bohemians and then Dundalk, the 22-year-old is targeting silverware to add to a growing personal reputation.
The FAI Cup Final might be the furthest fixture away on the 2019 calendar, but having seen his new teammates play at the Aviva five times in the last four seasons, Kelly is hopeful of getting a run out there himself in the year ahead.
'I've been going to watch the Cup finals for the last few years and it's nearly been a yearly thing where Dundalk have been in the Aviva,' he laughed.
'Sean Gannon is only from around the corner from me and he has been great to me, so hopefully we'll be back there next year.'
Indeed, Kelly revealed just how big an influence the full-back was in his decision to sign for the double winners.
'Even before I signed for Dundalk he has been brilliant to me. His whole outlook on life and football is superb. He's just an absolute gentleman. He has made my decision a lot easier to sign for Dundalk.'
Amongst the clubs that Kelly rejected to join Dundalk were Championship side Bolton Wanderers, who he was on trial with, but he said the draw of Champions League football was too hard to turn down.
'It has been a bit of a rollercoaster year, but it has been mostly ups,' he said.
'The only sort of downer was the financial situation at Bray, but other than that it has been all ups. Even though the team wasn't going that well, I thought I did well at Bray. We weren't that bad of a side, but we just didn't get that bit of luck. I got a move to Bohs from it, though, and did well there.
'Straight from there I was over in Bolton for a few weeks. Obviously I didn't stay over there, but I came back and got the call off Vinny and I was just delighted to get it sorted.
'I'm a bit of a home bird and when I was over there I was over there on my own in a hotel. It wasn't the nicest place to be, especially when you're finished training at 1.30pm and you've nothing to do in the afternoon.
'The Champions League was a big draw. I remember a couple of years ago watching Dundalk playing in Europe when they were doing well and it's crazy now to think I'll hopefully be playing in it and being a part of another good run.'
While the big news from Oriel Park so far this close season was the departure of manager Stephen Kenny to take up the Republic of Ireland Under-21 job, Kelly backed his new teammates to continue their recent successes without the future senior team manager.
'Even though Stephen Kenny has gone, everything has sort of stayed the same. They have signed everybody back as far as I know bar Stephen O'Donnell, so it's the same team.
'I know it will be a bit tougher without him - people have points to prove - but hopefully we'll get a few wins under our belt at the start and the bit of extra pressure from him leaving will fade away.
'Even though the management has changed, it's the players who do the work on the pitch. I know Stephen has been really good to them and has helped them get to where they are, but it's down to the players now to show that bit of what they've got and hopefully we can do well.'
Kelly, who has asked to wear the number 27 jersey that he had at Bohs next season, also feels he can bring a lot to the side.
'Everything about the style of play just works into my hands. Obviously we'll have to work back as well, but as a team Dundalk are just so attacking and they're so hard to play against. Even when they're not attacking their pressing up is just amazing, so hopefully I'll nail down my position and see what happens.
'I just want to be able to show what I can do again. I had a good bit of form last year and I just want to take that into Dundalk. I know I'll be playing with better players, but it's not just that, it's everything about them from their technical ability to their mental attitude and I've heard the dressing-room is brilliant.
'I just can't wait to get going and be a part of it.'