Former All-Star Kelly bolsters Australian ranks ahead of Renault GAA World Games
By Eoghan Tuohey
The standard of play across all four codes at this summer's Renault GAA World Games was always going to be exceptional. Quite often, teams are made up of the very best players from various clubs within the same country, or sometimes, even from neighbouring countries, ensuring top class quality is on show throughout the competition. This worldwide celebration of Gaelic Games is undoubtedly going to be a wonderful occasion, which will celebrate cultural diversity coming together under the GAA banner, and will be a unique opportunity for fans, players and mentors to share their passion and knowledge, build relationships and learn from each other. That's one important aspect of the Games.
But this is all set against the backdrop of a fiercely competitive atmosphere, one where there is a chance to play in, and win, a GAA World Games final in Croke Park on August 2nd, and consequentially, no quarter can be given or taken. There will be few teams who will be able to call upon the services of a player with 14 years of inter-county experience - on this the Australian Irish Born Ladies' Football side will be the envy of many heading into the Games this July. This squad will be back-boned by former All-Star, three-time Munster Championship winner and All-Ireland Senior Championship runner-up, Caroline Kelly, previously of Southern Gaels and Kerry.
Having arrived in her adopted homeland towards the end of 2017, Kelly thought her footballing days were behind her, and is thrilled at the prospect of returning home to compete on the world stage, albeit in a slightly different shade of green and gold!
"I'm very excited about the upcoming World Games. I've been lucky enough to wear the green and gold for many years at home, both with club and county and during those years I never imagined I would one day be wearing the green and gold of Australia. I feel very honoured to get the opportunity to play at home in front of my family again and hopefully we'll make it all the way to the steps of Croke Park."
The Brisbane Souths clubwoman still laughs at the novelty of her new teammates referring to her by her actual name on the field, as opposed to the nickname she was largely known by at home for most of her playing career.
"I was given the nickname "Totti" after the Italian soccer player by my cousins at a young age, and this nickname followed me through the majority of my football life at home. I'm enjoying the novelty of being called Caroline on the field these days, the "Totti" name hasn't followed me over here. It took a bit of getting used to being called Caroline on the pitch!
Like many Irish emigrants in the past, Caroline had resigned herself to the fact the a real negative aspect of moving abroad was that the connection to a GAA club was likely going to be eliminated. She was pleasantly surprised to discover that this would not be the case, and a bit more was expected of her before she would be allowed to hang up her boots!
"I was honestly very naive when leaving Ireland. I thought that was the end of the big games for me. Delighted to be heading back home again and playing in a big competition with the possibility of running out onto Croke Park once more."
Kelly will likely fill a central defensive or midfield role for Australia during the Games in Waterford this July, and asserts that her heart, passion and never-say-die attitude will be the key traits that she contributes to the group as they attempt to scale the dizzying heights of earning a spot in their division's final.
The Kelly family contingent will be represented handsomely during the games - and the familial feel to the tournament is something that Caroline believes makes it unique -
"My family as always will be present. Emigration is hard and I think that makes this tournament really special. My parents and sister are really looking forward to the opportunity to support me and my teammates back home again. My nephews and nieces really want a day in Croke Park and we are under strict orders to make the final"
Australasia's and, possibly, the entire Games' most decorated player is sure to draw a crowd during the preliminary stages in Waterford as interested punters, former club and county team-mates come to support and discover if this Australia team can claim a coveted Renault GAA World Games title.