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Saturday 21 October 2017

Kelly: Jack was right to go

Despite full points so far, Kelly says Kildare have to 'man up' to get to their desired location

Talented Kildare forward Niall Kelly. Photo: Sportsfile
Talented Kildare forward Niall Kelly. Photo: Sportsfile

Niall Kelly admits he "didn't believe it for a while" when reports of Jack McCaffrey's sabbatical from the Dublin team began to emerge, the pair having partaken in the same Sigerson Cup celebrations just a couple of weeks before in UCD.

On the one hand, Kelly - the great Lilywhite hope - finds it something of a hard sell to just walk away from a chance of winning an All-Ireland.

On the other, he - unlike McCaffrey - hasn't seen the views from the top of that particular mountain yet.

"You couldn't begrudge him going and doing whatever he has to do," Kelly insists.

"And I know football has taken up so much time and effort for him in the last few years and he has reaped the rewards for that.

Plunge

"Fair play to him for that and taking the plunge and going," Kelly continues.

"I'm sure it's hard to leave a set up that is winning loads of trophies and medals and being around a winning squad.

"That has to be tough for him. But at the same time, your career is so important.

"Football will always be here for him when he comes back."

It's not a path Kelly reckons he'll follow any time soon.

For a start, Kildare have, he suggests, "unfinished business".

"I would find it hard to go," he confirms.

"I would like to be successful first before I made any decisions like that.

"Someone like Jack, he's won pretty much everything with Dublin and on an individual level as well."

The evidence of the past couple of years indicates that Kildare may barely have started that business either but four wins from four Division 3 games so far is as much as they could have achieved at this stage of the year, even if they haven't been as impressive in their accumulation as intended.

"We're hoping that as a team, we can take a step up and man up," Kelly suggests ahead of Kildare's hosting of Sligo on Sunday where a win would almost confirm their ascension.

"Because while we're top of the table now and we're happy enough with that, going forward into the latter stages and the championship, you need your performances to be improving."

Still, this winning spring trend represents a very unfamiliar departure for Kildare.

Last year, they lost five of seven games in Division 2 to consign themselves to a second relegation in-a-row, just a year on from losing the same number in Division 1.

"There's two ways to look at it," Kelly reckons.

"It's always great to be winning games going into the championship and hopefully, we can continue winning.

knuckle

"There's no substitute for playing top teams at this stage of the year," he points out.

"That's where you learn where to improve and what mistakes you're making at this time of year.

"But look," he adds, "we'd love to be up in Division 1."

Which is the place every All-Ireland winner has come from since the leagues reverted to a four-grade format.

However far Dublin are - or were last year - ahead of the best of the rest, there's nothing visibly brewing anywhere in Leinster right now which suggests their provincial fiefdom is at risk.

Yet asked whether it's realistic that Kildare could strike one for the underdog this year, Kelly is strident.

"I'd definitely like to think so," the Athy clubman stresses.

"Look, it's hard to see, looking from the outside, any team challenging them.

"But at the same time, they're only human. They have to be knocked off their perch at some stage.

"So that's what we feel and definitely, I know, what other teams in Leinster feel.

"And we can't really rest until we succeed at that or have done everything in our power to succeed at that.

"At the moment, we're just looking at the league and the first round of Leinster.

"But if that does come down the track eventually," Kelly concludes, "we definitely won't be backing down from a challenge from Dublin or any other team."

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