LAST WEEK, RORY KELLY spent some time at a training camp in La Manga and work on Saturday was at the Madejski Stadium for the FA Cup clash of Reading and West Bromwich Albion.
The Buncrana man is working for the Platinum One Group as a Marketing and Management Executive, but has this weekend off to line out for Letterkenny Rovers in the FAI Intermediate Cup.
Rovers take on Killester United at Leckview Park, with a quarter-final berth at stake.
Kelly has been on the books of Finn Harps and Derry City previously, but has been at Letterkenny Rovers since last January.
The lure of the Intermediate Cup has kept him commuting since he took employment with Platinum One in London.
“This is the biggest game I’ll have played in,” he says of Sunday’s game against the Leinster Senior League side.
Picture caption: Letterkenny Rovers goalkeeper Rory Kelly. Picture by Stephen Doherty.
“I’ve played in finals before, but this is a huge national chance. We’re two games from the Aviva Stadium here.
“I knew from an early enough stage that I wasn’t going to be cut out to be a top League of Ireland player, so this is the pinnacle of what I can now achieve as a footballer. A lot of us feel as if we’re in that same boat.
“Macca (Darren McElwaine) tells us that every day: ‘We might never get this chance again, boys’.”
It is 2004 since Rovers were last at the semi-final stage, when they were only beaten by Rockmount of Cork after a replay, but Eamon McConigley’s team are in the last eight following their win over Midleton in the last round.
The Ulster Senior League is clinging to the cliff edge in terms of its future, with only six teams competing now and worried looks now regularly on the brows of League officials.
However, the USL has won the FAI Intermediate Interprovincials twice in the last three years and Kelly insists that Rovers belong on the big stage this weekend.
“Hard work has got us here and we deserve to be here,” says the goalkeeper. “Teams in Dublin think that we have no right to be here, but look at our squad and look at our manager. There is no reason we shouldn’t be here.
“The USL has become a bit repetitive, playing the same teams every few weeks. It’s not very fresh or exciting, but these Intermediate Cup games are brilliant.
“We want to represent the club and the League as best we can.
“The League is in a bit of difficulty, but we want to show it as strong as we possibly can here.”
Jonathan Minnock played 485 games for Finn Harps – a club record – and is a figure of considerable experience within a Rovers dressing room that includes the likes of Thomas Bonnar, Mark Forker, Christy Connaghan, Paul McVeigh and Kelly, all of whom have been at Finn Park.
Kelly says: “There’s a lot of experience in that squad at Rovers. I’d like to think I bring something, a bit of calm maybe, into it. Everyone in that dressing room is their own person and that has really helped with the team spirit.
“There are hundreds of League of Ireland games in that squad. We’re all in this place now where it’s like the Champions League of our level. It’s something different.
“It’s what you pick up from other pros in there that’s helping now. I was in a dressing room with James McClean, Danny Lafferty and guys like Eamon Zayed, Barry Molloy and Mark Farren, God love him.
“I learned how to live like a pro and live the right way to be a footballer.”
His own career is assisting his professional life now having joined Platinum One and working alongside the likes of Graham Barrett, Paola Vernazza, Andrew Douglas, Jonathan Fortune and Danny Webber.
Previously he’d been working with a company building a power station in Lisahally and also doing events managements for McGrory’s in Culdaff, but Platinum One has given him a chance to work in the game he loves.
He says: “I’ve been involved initially in installing structures that I’ve done for other companies. They’re doing a bit of a rebrand of the company, but I’m doing some training to become an intermediary there too.
“In that end I’ve been to some games to scout and be involved in the agency side of it too.
“Moving to London is only a small sacrifice. It’s very much a learning curve, but I’m learning from some brilliant professionals. I’m still finding my feet, but I’m constantly picking up things.
“I didn’t reach the level in a playing capacity that these boys have, but I love football and love dealing with people. It’s very dynamic.
“I can use a lot of what I learned at Derry City now to pass onto players. At 17 or 18, not everyone will go onto have a future in the game. It’s important to have something to fall back on.”Tags: