*Jack Kelly surrounded by family with the FAI Junior Cup. Photograph: Joe Buckley
JACK KELLY may have had doubts about joining Newmarket Celtic but he admitted making the move across the border from Shannon to Newmarket-on-Fergus was “the best decision I’ve ever made” while the occasion of their FAI Junior Cup success was tinged with sadness with the absence of his greatest influence in the sport.
At the aorta of the Newmarket Celtic side all season has been Kelly, the no-nonsense tackler who commits himself fully when bursting to get in possession has on countless occasions in their glorious run thrown his head where many would fear to stick their foot.
Throwing himself about the place for the good of the team has been his focus all season. “That’s my role in the team, they are my strengths,” he said of his selfless approach. “I get the ball and give it to the more talented players, the likes of David McCarthy and Hayzo in front of me but in saying that I’ve had Conor McDaid beside me who is similar, an absolute animal, Kevin Harnett hasn’t played in months but what a workhorse, what a player and what a team”.
He was lining out with Shannon Town Utd last season having transferred from Shannon Hibs. Speaking to The Clare Echo, Jack admitted he initially turned down Newmarket Celtic manager Paddy Purcell when the call to join Celtic came. “It was a tough decision to leave at the time, I was humming and hawing, to be honest I actually told Paddy no, I said I was going to stick with Shannon Town and try stick with the younger lads but Paddy kept hassling me, looking back now it’s the best decision I’ve ever made, my emotions are all over the place, I’m absolutely chuffed”.
A season with Celtic has helped to change his view of Newmarket-on-Fergus. “I grew up with all the boys, Cathal and all in school, they’ve been good friends and there was always a bit of banter when we played against them, there was never anything over the top even when I was playing for Shannon Town or Shannon Hibs, there was rivalry but there wasn’t much in the games let’s say, Newmarket was the pinnacle and I’m chuffed to be out here, what a club, it’s absolutely well run from the top to the bottom and that’s the reason we’re here, even the support we’ve had all year, I think Gerry Canty has been to every away game up and down the country, there’s other lads who have travelled with us up and down, it’s a phenomenal day for the club”.
Thrilled to have made the breakthrough and be a key component in Newmarket Celtic’s FAI success, Jack was thinking of the biggest influence in his football career who helped him along the way, his father John who died in May of last year after a battle with cancer.
“For myself on a personal level it’s been a tough twelve months but this really tops it off, I’m emotional, people know the story with my Dad, he was my biggest influence in football and it’s nearly twelve months to the day coming up in two weeks, he would have been chuffed, I’m delighted but I wish he was here to see this,” Jack told The Clare Echo.
He added, “You could see people get emotional at the final whistle, a bit of relief came into it but we were also thinking of people that weren’t here, that’s why it hits, it’s a rollercoaster of emotions to be honest, I’m absolutely chuffed, I wish he and others were here for this but it is what it is, he’s looking down”.