Johnny Kelly continues to provide inspiration
By Cian O'Connell
Johnny Kelly’s successful sporting journey continues.
Having flared to prominence during a silverware laden era for his native Portumna, Kelly is still making a real impact.
Kelly has operated at every level of the game, but the latest connection with Borris-Ileigh culminated in a first Tipperary SHC crown for the famous maroon and white club since 1986.
That one of Kelly’s former clubs, Kiladangan, were beaten in the decider was another interesting sub plot at Semple Stadium.
“It was a special day for Borris-Ileigh, a great day,” Kelly admits. “A lot of time and effort went into it, I'm just delighted for them all, it was a great day.
“I was with Kiladangan for a couple of years in 2013 and 2014, they are great people down there. They are a really good club, I'm disappointed for them, but there has to be a winner on the day so I'm just thankful that Borris-Ileigh came out on top.”
After losing the North Tipperary decider against Kiladangan, Borris-Ileigh tweaked their approach slightly following that setback at MacDonagh Park in Nenagh.
Defeating Drom-Inch, Kilruane MacDonaghs, and Kiladangan ensured it was a hard earned title in the latter stages of the competition.
“We really took it game by game, after the North final we took a break which was vitally important because we had gone five weeks on the trot without a break,” Kelly says.
“To get that break in between gave us a chance to have a serious look at ourselves, to do a couple of things with the team, to change things around. That gave us a chance. Once we got up and running again we took it one game at a time, Drom first, then Kilruane, and obviously it paid off then against Kiladangan on Sunday.
“Really and truly it was a case of the old cliche, take each team we were up against on their own merits and prepare accordingly.”
Flecked with accomplished inter-county players Kelly acknowledged it was important that the correct blend was located following Tipperary’s All Ireland triumph.
“Yes, the marquee players are vital for any club team,” Kelly states. “While they are away in an inter-county set-up they are getting top class preparation and top class coaching.
“Then you are working with the guys in the club and we had some great people involved in Borris-Ileigh there and great players. You gel it all together when the inter-county guys come back, it has worked so we are very happy.”
Kelly has trained several club, third level, and inter-county outfits and seeking to improve players remains a burning desire. “I enjoy hurling, it is a great game,” Kelly comments.
“Club hurling is in a great place in Tipperary, Galway, Clare, in these counties. You see the joy and emotion that goes through people on County Final day when they eventually get over the line, but I really enjoy it and it is great to be involved when you win.
“There are other occasions when you don't win, it is all part of the GAA and what makes the GAA so great.”
In 2020 Kelly will be involved in Michael Fennelly’s backroom team with Offaly which provides another exciting challenge.
Back in 2015, Kelly steered Coolderry to glory in the Faithful County, and has a keen interest in seeking to improve the fortunes of Offaly.
“I'm looking forward to that greatly,” Kelly replies. “I'm looking forward to meeting the Offaly players and looking forward to working with Michael.
“There is obviously lots of work to do there, but we are looking forward to rolling up our sleeves and getting to work with those guys, to see where we can go.”
Before then, though, Borris-Ileigh’s focus and attention will be on Sunday’s AIB Munster Club Semi-Final against Glen Rovers at Semple Stadium.
“We couldn't think about the Munster Semi-Final against Glen Rovers until we got over Sunday,” Kelly remarks.
“In the next couple of days we will knuckle down, to make sure we prepare as good as we can for the Munster Semi-Final which is going to be a big ask. A week between a County Final and a Munster Semi-Final is a tight window, but we will give as good an account of ourselves as we can.”