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Clare goalkeeper, Pa Kelly

Losing his place drove Kelly

CLARE goalkeeper Pa Kelly experienced a mixed 2014. Having played such a key role in Clare’s 2013 All-Ireland success, the Inagh-Kilnamona man, who works as an accountant with Curtin O’Friel & Co in Ennis, lost his place. He insists, though, that he had no issue with the manner of his dropping, although he did subsequently regain his place.
“Davy was fair. He made the call. He was pretty honest. Maybe my standards dropped and, in fairness to him, he gave me my chance to get back in. I don’t know whether I took it or not but I have proven since that I probably have. It just goes to show that you can’t let your guard down. If you win an All-Ireland you can’t get complacent. They are the standards he is demanding. He demands that you do the extra stuff and look after yourself. Maybe he thought that I wasn’t doing it but I thought he dealt with it fairly well,” Kelly told The Clare Champion.
On reflection, Kelly feels that losing his place was good for him long-term.
“I think every player needs it. When you have success, everyone is clapping you on the back and you maybe get complacent. You maybe think that you are better than what you are but something like losing your place gets you focused again. It happened to Domhnall [O’Donovan] as well. You come back stronger and you really want to show that you are good enough and you can play at that level,” Kelly explained.
Of course, having a manager who won two All-Ireland medals between the posts can lead to a bit of additional scrutiny on the goalkeepers.
“There are often times I wonder does he want to play in goals himself. He’s often said it in team talks and we’d have a laugh. He knows the ins and outs of goalkeeping and he knows the standards to expect. His standards were very high as a goalie. He was the top goalie in my view and he expects that from all his players. The work that he did on his own, to get to the level he was at, he expects not only me and the two other goalies to do that work but also every outfield player. He demands that high standard of work,” the current Clare goalkeeper revealed.
As for the suggestion that Clare players have little freedom, away from hurling, under Davy Fitzgerald, Kelly refutes this view.
“I think we’re given a lot of freedom to be honest. There are a lot of younger lads there that have been through the mill with the U-21s and there are a few older lads there, with a few years of experience and they know what it takes to achieve something. I know the perception is out there that there is micro management but that’s definitely not the case.”
Players, he says, have to ignore what they hear away from training or the dressing room, in order to retain their focus.
“You have to let it go over your head. You hear a lot of things. There are a lot of rumours about different things going on in training and players leaving but you have to concentrate on what’s important. What’s important is the group, the team and Clare achieving success. If you listen to people outside the group they are going to try and bring you down. That’s going to affect your performance, so you have to put that to one side and concentrate on what’s important. You have to block it out. There is the hurling and technical side of things but there is also the mental side of things. When you’re preparing you have to block everything out at home, even when there are people calling to the house. Or if your parents are talking about the match, you just have to say ‘we’re concentrating on our goal as a team’. It’s a standard answer. We don’t discuss things outside of the group,” Kelly explained.
While Davy Fitzgerald has had a couple of eventful after-match interviews, Kelly says the players sometimes don’t even see them.
“To be honest, we don’t see the interviews. We’re kept away from all that. I didn’t watch The Sunday Game after the match. You’d hear people talking about it but we really don’t take any notice of it. Our job is to play and their job is to manage. I think, in fairness to him, he has a decent track record as a manager. He has won a Munster with Waterford and an All-Ireland with Clare. The players shouldn’t be questioning his ability to manage.”
Away from the county set-up, Kelly had a frustrating evening last Friday week when Inagh-Kilnamona were well beaten by Crusheen in the first round of the championship. He broke one of his prize hurleys and conceded a goal to Cian Dillon, who plays corner-back for the county team.
“It was one of my best hurleys. These things happen. Mike O’Dell was the umpire from Corofin and he asked me for it for his young lad and I gave it to him. The ice was broken straight after the match. I met Cian Dillon and shook his hand and said ‘when a corner-back comes up and scores a goal it’s a bad day and time to blow the whistle’,” Kelly laughed ruefully.

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