Saturday 24 August 2019

Kelly hoping for injury-free run in U-20 World Cup bid

Kelly will face a late fitness test. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Kelly will face a late fitness test. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Jack Kelly's World Cup dream was very nearly over before it even began but for all of the disruptions that the Ireland U-20s have endured, having the player who was initially named captain for the Six Nations travel with them to Georgia is a huge boost.

Ireland begin their campaign against Italy tomorrow and Kelly will face a late fitness test to determine if he is fit enough to return from the shoulder injury that has hampered him since the win over Scotland in February.

There was plenty of excitement about Kelly's potential going into the Six Nations but he never got a chance to show what he is really capable of.

A devastating line breaker, the former St Michael's student is comfortable playing across the back line but his preference is full-back. At this stage, however, Kelly will be happy enough to get back on the pitch again because just after he had returned to full training two weeks ago, he rolled his ankle.


Thankfully the knock wasn't as bad as first feared and his shoulder remains the biggest concern. He is, however, confident that it will hold up.

"I have had a long time out now," Kelly said.

"I'd always be fighting against the support staff back in Leinster but they are happy for me to go.

"Initially they said if you don't turn a corner with your rehab it might not happen. They wouldn't let me go if they weren't completely confident that I would be able to play.

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"Thankfully with the rehab, with the work I was doing, it came around, turned a corner and now it is feeling good; I'm confident about it."

Head coach Peter Malone has opted to hand the captaincy to Paul Boyle, which is as much to do with taking some of the pressure off Kelly as it is a reflection of Boyle's leadership qualities.

"It was weird enough being named captain and then sort of straight away not being able to be selected; then coming back and getting injured again," Kelly explained.

"It was frustrating. It happens everyone, you can't always be fit. It's easier for myself, having not played in a good few months, to concentrate on trying to play well myself and not having to worry about the team as a whole. It's a bit of pressure off.

"We always talked about the captaincy just being, when I was captain, the person who spoke to the ref. There were always leaders in the team.

"Paul was one of the leaders in the team anyway. I don't think it really changes too much but it is nice to just concentrate on my own game and just get back at it."

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