New pro Kelly relishing his Dundalk test
THE riches earned from their stay at the top of Irish football has allowed Dundalk to go outside of the usual market in the area of player recruitment.
Yet it could be argued that their most effective newcomer this term is an improving talent who was playing amateur football two years ago and selling insurance until last autumn.
Daniel Kelly was one of the stories of last season, with his mid term move from Bray to Bohemians boosting his profile.
The 22-year-old was mixing his football endeavours with life in the real world and a day job selling insurance with Arachas in Sandyford.
He quit at the end of the season to give full-time football a crack, and a trial period with Bolton Wanderers preceded his switch to Dundalk where he has hit the ground running.
It's a meteoric rise for Kelly, a Ringsend native who was playing for St Patrick's CY in Ringsend in 2017 while the majority of his current team-mates were immersed in their rivalry with Cork City.
Tonight, Kelly will be at Turner's Cross raiding the Dundalk right flank. He expected to be phased into the team but injuries and his good form mean he has already become an important part of Vinny Perth's team. In truth, he's found it slightly harder to adjust to the free time that comes with this existence - but he knows it's a good problem.
"The recovery is brilliant," says Kelly, "When I was working and playing for Bohs last year, it's a tougher because you might finish a game on a Monday night and you're then sitting in a chair working in insurance for eight, nine hours the next day.
"At first, I didn't know what to do with myself on days off. We are always off on Wednesdays. I was nearly getting up at half twelve. I felt like I should have been doing something because I'm so used to it being hectic.
"I didn't expect to have this life a couple of years ago when I was playing for St Patrick's Cy but it's mad the way football can change. I didn't think I would take to it this quick, but it's unbelievable. I'll see where it takes me."
Kelly's former work colleagues in keep in touch with him and one of his regular Wednesday activities now is to go and have lunch with them. He is grateful that they were understanding when his football commitments became more pressing.
Ironically enough, Cork are a team that helped put him on the map as a Kelly hat-trick against a ragged Leesiders operation in a televised match at Dalymount Park last September did boost his status.
John Caulfield's reign was starting to veer off course at that point and Cork's struggles this term mean that the matches with Dundalk may not quite have the same significance with a view to deciding the destination of the title.
Still, there's a fierce rivalry between the players and with the one-time assistants John Cotter and Perth trying to establish themselves, it should be a feisty affair. Dundalk arrive as league leaders after overcoming a rocky patch.
"I've never been at a team that was favourites to win the league," said Kelly. There's a lot of pressure but the lads in the dressing room have been there, done that. It's a great bunch and it makes it easier for you to blend in and do well.
"We started the season sloppy, but we've started to click now. The likes of Michael Duffy has been unbelievable. I didn't think I would play this much, but I won't be looking back now. I'm a confidence player and, at the moment, the confidence is high. If you'd told me a few years ago that I would be with Dundalk and trying to win a league, I'd have bitten your hand off."