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Kerry's goalkeeper owes a lot to Billy Morgan and UCC after fairytale year

Brian Kelly: ‘If you said to me last year, I’d be after having the year I’m after having, I would have laughed at you basically’

Declan O'Sullivan, Paul Geaney and Brian Kelly celebrate Brian Kelly celebrates Sunday's win with teammates Paul Geaney and Declan O'Sullivan. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

KERRY’S NEW ALL-Ireland winning goalkeeper has credited a legendary netminder from rivals Cork for helping his meteoric rise to the top.

24 year-old Brian Kelly only made his senior championship debut for Kerry back in June in the Munster semi-final against Clare.

He paid tribute to the influence of Billy Morgan, who was between the posts when Cork lifted Sam back in 1973, and was the Sigerson Cup winning coach when Kelly played for UCC last February.

“If you said to me last year, I’d be after having the year I’m after having, I would have laughed at you basically. I was talking to Billy (Morgan) and the boys during the week and said I wouldn’t be here only for that Sigerson win. It’s great.

“I graduated from CIT, had a year out looking for a job with no success and I decided to go back for a year to UCC for the Masters.

“Éamonn said it to me when he handed me my championship debut to bring the confidence you brought to the Sigerson final and everything else throughout the year. It still hasn’t sunk in to be honest, I’m still pinching myself.”

Paul Geaney and Brian Kelly celebrate winning UCC duo Paul Geaney and Brian Kelly with the Sigerson Cup last February. Source: Presseye/Russell Pritchard/INPHO

Kelly knows what it’s like to recover from setbacks in a Kerry jersey. He was in goal in April 2011 when the U21 roof caved in as they shipped a 22-point defeat to Cork.

“There was people arriving at half-time that day because there was a crash that day,” recalls Kelly. “Half of them were turning around and going straight back out the gate. There was a lot of us involved that day and it was most definitely a low point in our careers.

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“One way of looking at it and i did it myself personally is that things can never be as bad, so you might as well look forward from it. It was a tough day. That kind of shapes you for the future and thankfully did.”

Kelly played his own role on Sunday as he protected his goalmouth to keep a clean sheet. The first-half save from Darach O’Connor was something he had forecast.

“We were all saying during the week that if we could keep a clean sheet, we’d be halfway there to winning. I was talking to the sports psychologist during the week and he said put yourself in a situation where you visualize things.

“I sent him an email during the week where I said I’d come out an angle to meet some fella and maybe tip it around the post. It’s just funny how things go. It was only the smallest of touches. But I’d like to think that it made the difference. It was a fairly hairy moment at the end. I was expecting a bullet and I just got a palm away. Thankfully Shane Enright cleaned up the rebound so happy days.”

James OÕDonoghue celebrates after the game Kerry attacker James O'Donoghue. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Kelly’s Legion club teammate James O’Donoghue has shone brightest this year but it’s of little surprise to the Kingdom goalkeeper.

“It’s a credit to him the way he’s handled it all. He doesn’t let it get to him, he’s not big headed or anything. He’s a mighty man. In fairness even since U12, he’d the weirdest kicking style of all time but he’s after adapting now and changing that.

“But even since U12 he’s a class act. He’ll hopefully now have a couple more All-Ireland medals and I’d say he’ll add a few personal accolades to that as well.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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