Blow for Clancy as Kelly heads back to Pats
Drogheda United boss Tim Clancy has admitted he was fighting a losing battle to keep Ciaran Kelly after the highly-rated 20-year-old opted to return to former club St Patrick's Athletic for 2019.
Centre-back Kelly, who was just 19 when Clancy picked him up from St Pat's, made more starts than any other player last season - 32 - and wasn't substituted in any of those games, and he also weighed in with an impressive tally of six goals.
However, he has made no secret of wanting to play at a higher level, and when the Drogs narrowly failed to achieve promotion this year it was always likely that the 6ft 4in defender would move on.
'I had a sit-down with Ciaran and had a good chat with him,' said Clancy, speaking to the Drogheda Independent on Monday morning.
'I wanted to keep him, and if it had been anyone else he wouldn't have gone, but his ultimate goal was to play in the Premier Division and it was [his former club] Pats and he's worked with Harry Kenny on the Fas course and that's probably what swung it.'
Reflecting on how big a loss Kelly would be, Clancy said: 'He was excellent for us. He was a model player, a very talented young player who wants to learn, and there was a huge improvement from the start of last season which comes with games.
'He has the attributes to play at whatever level he want, he's hungry to learn and has that desire to get better that you need. He has a good head on his shoulders and I wish him well.'
On signing for St Pat's, Kelly didn't forget his former club and he tweeted: 'Just want to say a big thanks to @DroghedaUnited for the unbelievable year I've had with the club.
'Thank you to all the fans for their support over the year and I wish Tim Clancy, Kevin Doherty and the lads all the best of luck next year and the years to come.'
With 10 first-team players signed up for 2019 already, the Drogs boss wasn't expecting any fresh news in the next couple of days, but he expressed the wish that the squad would be sufficiently strong to allow him give frontline players such as Sean Brennan and Chris Lyons more opportunity for rest.
'Last year there were times when we kept lads on the pitch and relied on them a bit too much,' Clancy reflected.
'Look at the likes of Sean. We were keeping him on the pitch for 90 minutes every single week and it's difficult for him at his age to play every single game.
'It would be great to get players in who can help us out, and get somebody to support Chris up top and give him a breather.
'It's not easy getting players to go down to Drogheda, especially with what we can offer them financially, and guys will tell you they're keeping their options open - and rightly so.
'I was on that side of the fence a couple of years ago, speaking to other clubs and going back and forth.
'But we're in a far better position than last year when I wasn't even in the job, and hopefully we can get a bit more quality throughout the whole squad to contribute a bit more.'
Off the field, meanwhile, the Drogs have launched a new junior membership club called Drogster, aimed at supporters aged under 14, as part of their upcoming Centenary year celebrations.
For €20 young fans will receive a free season ticket to all home league games (when accompanied by an adult) and have the opportunity to meet the players and coaching staff at pre-season training in January. As well as receiving a DUFC crested polo top, DUFC Centenary pencil case and birthday card.
Only 100 places are available and the offer ends on December 22nd, and more information can be found on the club website.