Saturday 17 February 2018

Jack Kelly to lead Ireland U20 and become sixth consecutive St Michael's skipper

Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

It says a lot about how highly rated Jack Kelly is that Joe Schmidt saw fit to bring him into the Ireland camp for two training sessions last November.

The former St Michael's College student is the latest in a long line of recent gradates who have gone on to captain the Ireland U-20s and as Kelly gets set to lead his side in their Six Nations opener in Scotland on Friday night, he knows that he is continuing a proud tradition for his school.

The last six Ireland U-20 captains have come from St Michael's with Kelly following on from James Ryan, Josh Murphy, Nick McCarthy, Dan Leavy and Luke McGrath.

Kelly was outstanding from full-back in last season's Senior Cup and although he can also play at outside centre, he has his eyes on making the green No 15 jersey his own for the upcoming Six Nations.

The 19-year old is an incredibly dangerous counter-attacker and his physique should cope with the demands of professional rugby which is ultimately where he will end up before too long.

Just last week, St Michael's uploaded Kelly's highlights reel to YouTube, which is certainly worth checking out, and it has already been viewed over 16,000 times.

While the Ailesbury Road nursery have just one Senior Cup (2012) to show for their efforts in recent years, they have produced a plethora of exciting talents under Andy Skehan's watch.

So what is the secret to their ability to produce so many Ireland U-20 captains?

“We have very good coaches, a very good set-up that allows for players to get the best out of themselves,” Kelly reasoned.

“It also helps that you have played with or have come before you have gone on and had such success; it pushes you on as well.

“There is a bit of an environment there at the moment that players really believe in themselves, really take on any challenges that come. The (run of) captains are a result of that.

"I know them all really. I know Nick (McCarthy), James (Ryan) and (Ross) Molony quite well, especially, James. He was my captain as I was going through the school. He sent me a text congratulating me.

“I have had a chat with him about what the Six Nations is like, what the World Cup is like and what the Under-20s is like as well. It is great to have friends that can give you that bit of guidance.”

Kelly is part of a quality Ireland U-20s outside backline and he is hoping that his experience in Carton House with the senior team will stand to them in the coming weeks.

“It was a great experience, to see the level they train at, and how every training session they are so switched on, so concentrated on their task,” Kelly said.

“It gives you an idea of the level you have to reach to be able to play with players like that.

“On reflection, it is cool to get those experiences because you want to be in that position at some point in your career. It gives you a small taste and you want to come back for more.”

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