Deep sadness at passing of ‘Mr. Football’ – Dessie Kelly, Letterkenny 

There is sadness this evening in Letterkenny and in sporting circles throughout Donegal with the news of the passing of Dessie Kelly.

One of the county’s best known and longest serving soccer administrators, Dessie had been in ill-health in recent times and died earlier today.

He was a man who gave his life to soccer and was a well known highly respected figure in the game, not only in Donegal, but around Ireland.


A founding member of Letterkenny Rovers FC, he only recently stepped down as chairman after 25 years at the helm.

The club have this evening led the tributes to a man who will be dearly missed.

“Dessie led the club with distinction over a long period of time,” the club said.

“He worked exceptionally hard to always drive the club forward and he was a great football man respected by all.

Dessie Kelly at a meeting of the Ulster Senior League along with Johnny McCafferty and Jim McConnell

“Dessie dedicated so much of his life to the game and the club he loved. He was a founding member of  Letterkenny Rovers in 1962 and was a player, manager, groundsman, fundraiser and administrator. As a manager, he led the club to historic back to back Donegal League titles along with Liam Blake in the 1980/81 and 1981/82 seasons.

“He spent many long hours at Leckview Park, working tirelessly on maintaining pitches and improving facilities and was instrumental in the development of the new Astro turf pitch. He was committed and loyal to the club in so many ways and overseeing the weekly lotto draw and bingo on a Thursday night in the Station House Hotel was two of his favourite jobs.


“Of course, Dessie’s association with the game extended far beyond our club. To many in the county, he was simply known as ‘Mr Football’. He was a titan of Donegal football. 

“He served as a long-time secretary of the Donegal Junior League and the Ulster Senior League while he also held various roles in the Donegal Women’s League, the Donegal Youth League, the Donegal Schoolboys League and the Letterkenny & District Schoolboys League over many decades.”

Dessie Kelly was heavily involved in the development of ladies football in Donegal. He’s pictured with coach and administrator, Brid McGinty.

Away from the game, Dessie was involved in a host of community organisations, most notably the Old Letterkenny Reunion committee of which he was also a former chairman.

Only recently, he attended the special unveiling of a new bench at the Oldtown Bridge, dedicated to his dear friend and former Rovers club mate, John ‘Gorey’ Curran.

Dessie pictured on the right as Kitty Blake presents the Eunan ‘Busty’ Blake Memorial Cup to Derry City captain Liam Coyle. Also pictured are Tony Blake and the late Liam Blake.

One of his last outings was to attend the final of the Brian McCormick Sports Cup where he watched his beloved Letterkenny Rovers defeat Keadue Rovers to win the cup.

Dessie is survived by his wife Annette and family.

Funeral arrangements to be confirmed.


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