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‘The boys never stop, Jesus… I just hear the walls going boom, getting hit with balls. It's a madhouse’

Georgie Kelly on sharing a place with teammates, FAI Cup final doubts and what the future holds.

Georgie Kelly pictured at a PFAI event yesterday.
Georgie Kelly pictured at a PFAI event yesterday.
Image: Sam Barnes/SPORTSFILE

GEORGIE KELLY has a lot on his plate currently.

Between exams, rehab and an upcoming FAI Cup final, not to mention an unruly, football-obsessed household, thoughts about his Bohemians future have taken a backseat for now.

“It’s no clearer for me,” he says. “There is always going to be interest, there always is if you have a good season. But I’ve just kind of shut it all away. I just told my agent that I don’t want to hear anything, I don’t want to do anything until after the cup final. And I’ve exams coming up as well so it will probably be even later before I sit down and look at options and stuff. So people keep asking what am I doing, but I don’t know myself. I don’t know what’s going on or what options I have. It depends on what’s there.”

Kelly’s 21 Premier Division goals left Bohemians on the brink of a European spot. However, the striker’s absence was felt, as injury saw him miss much of the end-of-season run-in, and his side dropped points in big games against Derry and St Pat’s without him.

The Donegal native was back in time for the final league game of the campaign, making an instant impact as he scored just after a 76th-minute introduction in the 1-1 draw with Sligo.

That result, however, meant Derry pipped the Dublin side to fourth in the table and means this weekend’s FAI Cup final has extra significance, as Bohs must win in order to secure European football next season.

“A couple of weeks ago I thought the cup final was seriously in doubt, it was a bad tear in my calf, they were talking six weeks,” he explains. “Even to get on the other night, never mind score, was a relief.

“The physio said six-to-eight weeks and he was more or less ruling out the cup final at that stage. I don’t know how quickly it recovers, we were in every day, for 10-15 days and that helped with recovery. I am very lucky.

“It was only in the last week that it improved rapidly. I got it scanned just before Sligo and that confirmed it had healed really quickly. It was only on the day in Sligo that we decided to chance 15 minutes.

“I always felt, even with half a leg I wanted to give it a go, I didn’t want to miss it. My worry was I’d come into the final with no minutes, having not played in three or four weeks, so to get back a week early makes a big difference.”

On the upside, Kelly’s absence did ensure more game time for highly-rated young attacker Promise Omochere, and he reserves high praise for the 21-year-old.

“Promise is an unbelievable player, unbelievable ability, he could easily be the best player in the league. He’s had serious issues with injury and he grew really quickly in the last two to three years, he grew a ridiculous amount, a big difference in height and that causes its own complexities, different injuries and niggles. But if Promise can get himself right, next year, he’s a worry for any defender who comes up against him and will be a huge asset in the cup final.”

While Bohs players, for the most part, are unaccustomed to being present at the season’s showpiece event, Kelly is an exception. In 2018, he was an unused sub as Dundalk beat Cork City 2-1, and the following year, he came off the bench, but could not prevent the Lilywhites’ penalty shootout defeat to Shamrock Rovers.

The 25-year-old says the fact that Bohs have played in the Aviva Stadium already this season in the Europa League will not count as much of an advantage.

“A few people have mentioned that but that’s in front of 6,000 people in a half-empty stadium when the pressure is off, it made that occasion a bit different. But cup finals are different, the occasion becomes a real leveller, the game is often jagged and stale because of the tension, the fans, players in this league aren’t used to playing in front of 40,000 and that noise. Even tactics and that stuff, a lot of it ends up going out the window because players are tense and nervous and there are mistakes.  

“That 2019 final was the best atmosphere I ever played in, unbelievable. It’s completely different. Say, I was at the Portugal game and it’s different going to an Ireland game [compared with] a rival cup final with big crowds. It’s a huge difference with the noise, atmosphere and competing fans. It could be a shock to a few players but I’m sure we’ll be well prepared.” 

Kelly’s prolific season has earned him a PFAI Player of the Year nomination, but he credits the relationship he has built with teammates and especially fellow attackers Liam Burt and Ali Coote as being key to his progress.

“My game essentially is dependent on the team playing well and our wingers playing high and getting good crosses in and creating good chances. It’s down to them two really and they have been flying. They are setting up chances but even in general and what they bring to the group.

“I’m living with the two lads so the connection between us is pretty good and that tells on the pitch. It took me a couple of months before we got into a good rhythm this year and got our set team but once we got that, it was massive for me as you can read players and read movements and you make runs based on that.”

The house, Kelly adds, is not exactly a quiet one, and perhaps not the ideal environment for someone with finance exams to worry about next month.

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“We watch games together. What did we watch yesterday? Hibs and Rangers. The boys were buzzing that Rangers were beaten. It’s a good house. Stephen Mallon is in there and he’s another good addition.

“I have my own wee room, a little work-study room down on the bottom floor so I can kind of get away from it. The boys never stop, Jesus. It’s all go. There are footballs lying around the house everywhere and I just hear the walls going boom, boom, getting hit with balls. It’s a madhouse but great.

“There are four of us in the gaff so we take turns and cook a meal each night, only cooking once or twice a week. Everyone is okay. My go-to is Bolognese. They are all good cooks.”

Amid all this chaos and the various distractions, Kelly reiterates that where he will be next season is by no means top of his list of priorities.

“There are risks anywhere, there were risks for me this year. A lot of people, me probably included, didn’t think I’d have as good a year. There are risks and you just have to weigh them up as best you can.  

“Keith [Long] is great, he knows the situation. That’s kind of it, when you’re signing one-year deals, the club knows every year that you’re going to have to negotiate, coming into December. It’s not going to be easy. He knows that he has half the squad there that are probably out of contract and he has to get everyone signed back. It’s a tough time of year for him. That’s the way it works in this league.

“I’m sure [my agent has] been getting different people ringing him. I’ve done well to block that out. I’m happy enough. I don’t know who is coming to a game. I don’t know what’s going on, I’m happy enough with that.”

Originally published at 07.45

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Paul Fennessy

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