BY CHRIS MCNULTY
NEW Finn Harps ‘keeper Rory Kelly knows all about making headlines – and the 20-year old goalkeeper sees no reason why his new club can’t pen a few over the remainder of the season.
A second-year journalism student in Liverpool, the Buncrana native made his Harps debut in last Saturday’s impressive 3-1 away win at in-form Longford Town.
Second-half goals from Paul Simon Tracey, Thomas McBride and Blain Curtis handed Harps a win that has lifted considerably the spirits and hopes around Navenny Street this week as Harps prepare to welcome Pat Scully’s table-topping Limerick to Finn Park.
“Last weekend was brilliant, but everyone seemed very optimistic before the game and as soon as it was over it was time to look at Limerick,” says Kelly, who admits to not being as comfortable fielding the questions from the fourth estate as he is asking them.
“It was a brilliant result down there in Longford, because they had been unbeaten and were on a really good run of form.
“We stayed positive, even after conceding the first goal. We came back to show that wee bit of quality that is in the sides.
“It’s games like this, against the top three or four teams, that shows you where we stand.
“We kicked on very well after we got the goal back. Hopefully now we can build on it and push on for other results – that result last week will mean nothing otherwise.”
The next step is the beginning of the second series of fixtures in the League.
Already one quarter of the League has elapsed – and Harps are well in tune. They sit just a point off the play-off spot and four off lofty Longford, who top the pile.
Tonight’s visitors, Limerick, are three ahead in second – and memories are still clear of the opening day of the season in Jackman Park when Harps gave the Shannonsiders a real scare, only to go down 2-1.
In what he has seen so far, Kelly believes Harps can give it a rattle.
He says: “There haven’t been any games this year, aside maybe from the League Cup game against Derry last week, where you’d say that Harps were battered.
“I’ve spoken to some of the boys about that first game and I don’t see any reason to fear them. Hopefully home advantage will stand to us and we can get something, anything out of the game.
“Limerick have had a big influx of money and that has brought them some excellent signings obviously, but hopefully we can find a big performance in us in front of our home fans.
“There’s already one quarter done now and we’re not far away. If we could try and go unbeaten in a quarter, aim for wee things like that and if we’re still there or thereabouts at half-way you’d have to be thinking then about kicking on.
“Who’s to say we can’t keep it on? We’ll have a better gauge after this game, so we’ll not be getting carried away just yet.”
Tonight’s game is one that should see the biggest crowd of the season at Finn Park – especially off the back of a result like last week’s.
Kelly says: “It was sort of unfortunate that we put in that performance away from home when there wasn’t too many of our own fans there. Hopefully we’ll get a crowd now this week.
“Limerick are probably one of the strongest squads in this Division, they’re a Premier Division squad basically. A good result for us this week would really help to entice more people into Finn Park.”
Kelly’s signing for Harps has come at the perfect time for both parties. He’s on the verge of concluding his second year at John Moore’s in Liverpool and will be back for the summer months this week, while his signing was triggered following the unfortunate injury sustained by Ciaran Gallagher in Waterford.
Young Shaun Patton deputised, but Kelly was brought in to add a little
more experience to things.
Previously, he spent two years at Derry City, featuring for a time in their Ulster Senior League team while also playing for the City team that won the Newstalk A Championship.
He’d been on Harps’ radar anyway, having played against Dundalk in pre season.
He says: “It’s been going good so far and I’d know most of the boys anyway. It’s a young enough squad, but the core of it is very strong with the likes of ‘Wizzy’ (Shaun McGowan) and ‘Pizza’ (Peter Hutton). You have Kevin McHugh then, who has been one of the top League of Ireland strikers in the last ten years.
“Other players like Tommy McBride and Ciaran Coll know what they’re doing and while they mightn’t have too much experience they have got to grips well with the League of Ireland.
“Everyone has made me feel a part of it so far and there has been no real pressure. Felix was mentioning that we have to try and not make mistakes and keep our concentration. I was happy with my own performance last week and the experienced players have really helped.
“Felix and Peter have been great and been a big help in integrating me. There’s a good atmosphere here and a good bunch of fellas.”
After being released by Derry, he had been training with Institute and did some of the pre-season with Harps.
“When Peter Hutton rang and asked me if I’d be interested in signing I jumped at the chance,” he says.
“The debut came very quickly, but the fact that I’d played in pre-season against Dundalk really helped. I’d like to think I can do well and hopefully challenge Ciaran (Gallagher) when he comes back, or at least give him a bit of competition.”