Tuesday, 16 November 2010 09:57
The man who once scored three goals for Castlebar Celtic in a FAI Junior Cup match has made international sporting headlines for saving four penalties in an FAI Senior Cup final. Hollymount-based goalkeeper Ciaran Kelly admitted his match-winning achievement for Sligo Rovers against Shamrock Rovers at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday was 'the stuff of dreams.'
Kelly performed his heroics during the penalty shootout when an enthralling decider ended scoreless after extra time.
In a sensational climax that made him the talk of Irish football, he saved all the spot-kicks taken by Shamrock Rovers players, namely Gary Twigg, Pat Flynn, Chris Turner and Paddy Kavanagh.
Sligo's Eoin Doyle and Gary McCabe found the net in the shootout as Rovers added the Blue Riband of Irish football to their EA Sports Cup triumph earlier in the season and denied the Hoops a seventh domestic league and cup double.
Kelly, nicknamed 'Tracksuit' during his days at Celtic Park, spoke of his exploits afterwards when interviewed by Tony O'Donoghue for RTÉ Sport.
He stated: "I may have been lucky but what a time to get lucky. I went through the same routine I normally do before a penalty shootout.
"I got myself off the pitch to compose and ready myself. It helped me to stay relaxed.
"I knew the other players would be on to me saying: 'You can do it, you can do it' and the manager (Paul Cooke) was on to me as well. I took a few minutes to relax and then when I came back, it was time to go."
He referred, in particular, to his save from Turner. "He took and converted a penalty against me before when he played for Dundalk. I knew if I stood tall, he would drill it down the middle and I would save it."
When Kavanagh stepped up to take the fourth Shamrock Rovers penalty which he needed to convert to keep his side's hopes alive, Kelly sensed he was not going to concede.
"I knew in my heart it was going to be our day. In a personal sense, I went from zero to hero as I was the one who conceded the penalty that allowed Sporting Fingal to equalise in last year's final before going on to beat us.
"But to save four was really special. It's something you only dream about," he said.
Perhaps the only disappointment was that he missed out on the match-of-the-match award which was selected before the shootout, although Kelly did not begrudge Joseph Ndo his accolade.
"He has been powerful all season," he added.
Kelly is to receive a special recognition award at the Mayo League annual presentation function later this month.
Photo: David Maher/SPORTSFILE