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INTERVIEW: With a group this good it's easy to slot in

Keeper Michael Kelly on his move to Carlisle

3 August 2022

It’s been a hectic few days of activity for new arrival Michael Kelly who, after a spell of training with the Blues last week, negotiated his way through the minefield of international clearance in time to take a place on the bench at his new club on Saturday afternoon.

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Tentative talks about coming over to Cumbria very quickly turned into him paying for his own flight and car hire, such was his determination to give the opportunity the best possible chance of success.

“It all happened quite quick,” he told us. “I got a call two weeks ago to say book your flights and get over here, so that’s what I did.

“I couldn’t say no, so I came in to train and obviously did enough, which means I’m now here for a year at least.

“From the moment I stepped into the ground I knew I wanted to come over here. The facilities are brilliant and the staff are brilliant, and there’s a real positive vibe around the dressing room and the whole club.

“It looks like it’s going to be a positive season and I absolutely wanted to be a part of that. It was a no-brainer for me really. I can’t wait to properly get going now.”

An added slight complication was the fact that the season is well under way over in Ireland, but he confirmed that his former club had been excellent in their handling of the situation.

“The staff and players at Bray were all brilliant and I was fully committed to trying to help the club finish off strongly,” he confirmed. “I couldn’t turn this down, it’s full-time football.

“I had an agreement with Pat Devlin and the club where if an opportunity for full-time football came for me then I wouldn’t turn it down. They stuck to their word and I’m thankful to them for that.

“Then obviously it’s the added bonus that it was in the UK at a really good club. Basically, I think Gez and the gaffer identified what they wanted and they’ve got it.

“It came out of the blue for me. I was very focused on Bray, and my job there, but I’m delighted that I got the call. 

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“In terms of how it went at the end of last week, I got in fairly late on the Friday night because we didn’t think the international clearance was going to come through, so I was meant to be going home to sort out my life, but that didn’t happen.

“To then be warming up in front of such a big crowd on Saturday was amazing, and you can tell straight away that the people are passionate. I knew I’d made the right decision straight away. The pitch is fantastic and I got a really nice welcome off the fans.”

And when it comes to settling in, a naturally bubbly personality means he’s taking all of that side of things in his stride.

“I’m quite a confident person so I don’t really think about it too much,” he told us. “I just let my football do the talking, and with a group of players this good it’s very easy to just slot in straight away.

“I wasn’t too nervous, I was happy enough to come over and get stuck in. I know a lot of people will say there’s a good group of players wherever they go, but I genuinely think that here.

“I said it straight away when I spoke to my parents after my first few days here, because as soon as I came in I felt at home. It’s been a dream of mine to play over here and it’s good to come into a club and a group where you feel wanted, and that bodes well for the rest of the season.”

“When you know you’re wanted it’s the best feeling in football, I think so anyway,” he added. “It helps your confidence and means you can concentrate on doing what you do, because that’s the reason people want you.

“The manager and Gez have identified me for a reason, so I’ve just got to make sure I do what I do. I feel a million dollars at the moment, I’m just delighted to get it done. I’ve just got to push on now and hopefully push for that number one spot.

“To be fair, the gaffer and Gez have been very open about that situation. Tomas has done really well during pre-season and rightly so, he’s the number one, but it would be a waste of everyone’s time if I came in here and settled for number two.

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“I have to challenge Tom, and hopefully for myself I can get that spot, but more importantly for the team if it’s all going well then that’s the way it’s going to be at the moment. I’ll push him all the way.

“I obviously want the number one spot, I’m a competitor and I don’t want to come in and settle for second best. I’ll be doing everything in my power to take that off Tom, but I’ll also support him as best as I can as well.

“I feel like that’s what I’d want if the roles were reversed and I think that’s what he deserves because he’s done really well in pre-season. He did well on Saturday as well, so I know it’s going to be a challenge, but I’ll support him at the same time.

“I turned 26 a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been number one in most clubs I’ve been at. It would be very hard for me to change my approach and settle for sitting on the bench and having an easy run.

“I wouldn’t have come here if I wanted to do that, I wouldn’t be moving country if I wanted to do that. I very much want to be part of the first-team this year and I’ll do my best to make that happen.”

Clearly ready for the challenge, he’s already built up a rapport with the rest of the goalkeeping fraternity, an important part of the process for every new arrival.

“I think that happens much quicker for goalkeepers because we’re an isolated group, so we’re always training in a small group together,” he commented. “I know the outfielders train together every day as well, but we’re constantly in contact with each other.

“I think that makes it easy to build up a relationship. Gez is brilliant and so are Tom, Gabe and Scott. I’m looking forward to the season together and I think we’ll push each other on.

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“At the start of the season I would have bitten your hand off for full-time football. When I heard it was in the UK as well with the chance to play in the EFL, and hopefully work my way up into the first-team, then wherever that takes me was just an added bonus.

“It will open doors that football in Ireland couldn’t open for me, so I was never going to turn it down. For ourselves in Bray we were training in the evenings, which meant I was working as well.

“It was graft but it was well worth it, because you obviously got to play football. You can’t really compare it to this, the facilities here are brilliant and the staff are amazing. It’s a step up but hopefully I’ll take to it quite quickly.

“Training last week showed that I will. I think it’s important for managers and players and people like that to see the personality of someone, particularly someone who’s playing in Ireland.

“There’s any amount of video I think on my previous games, and I think he spoke to people about me anyway, but personality-wise it’s a very select group, it’s a really good group, so I don’t think anyone with the wrong personality would fit in.”

Having forged his path in football over in Ireland, his desire to test himself in a different arena shines through with almost every word he speaks.

“I’ve never played in the big schoolboy teams at home, I never had the big name,” he told us. “I’ve just worked and grafted behind the scenes, and I’ve got rewards for that along the way, so why would I change now.

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“I wanted to come here, I wanted to play full-time football, I saw the club, the staff, the players – they’re all dedicated in their own ways. Just because I paid for a flight or a car doesn’t mean I’m any different.

“I’m just part of the cog and hopefully it will breed a good season. Every one of the people in this building are the exact same. I just think it helped me bed in a little bit more. 

“I started off when I was very young, played for a local team, then moved on to Dunboyne, did alright there, got a move to Shamrock Rovers for the U19s when I was only 17.

“From there I’ve been part of the first-team squad, that was my first taste and I knew I wanted to be a footballer.

“I left to join Cabinteely, played just over 100 games for the club, they were very good to me, went to Longford Town, another great club, really well run, loved my time there. Then I went to Bray and from there I’ve landed here. 

“In total honesty, I didn’t know much about Carlisle, but I knew about the Jimmy Glass goal. And they’re big boots to fill!

“I only knew because I heard Under The Cosh, I listened to an interview with himself. Obviously Roddy Collins has been the manager as well, there’s quite a famous viral video of Roddy talking about the cup final from that time period. I knew a bit. I didn’t know a whole lot.”

“Seeing the place now, I think it’s a really well-run club,” he continued. “I think all the people are very genuine, I think it’s a really good group and I don’t just mean players, I mean staff, wash ladies, everyone.

“Everyone is really nice and welcoming. It’s like one big family. I know it sounds a cliché but you get it very few times in football. I think this will be a good season for us hopefully. 

“I know the deal has an option, but that isn’t a problem. If I don’t back myself, there’s no reason for anyone else to, there’s no reason for the gaffer to have any confidence in me.

“I think a lot of people in this league are going to be on similar deals, relative unknowns like myself. I have to go and prove what I can do and, like the gaffer said, I have to go and show I can cope with English football.

“He could have out any number and length on the deal and I probably would have said yes. It’s up to me to go and make the most of it now. 

“I think we all come from the same kind of spot in terms of standards, wanting to do everything right. Gez is fantastic, I love working with Gez, and my first week working with Tomas really good.

“It’s about passing on information, bouncing off each other, everything’s open for discussion. The gaffer is very fair, very direct, he doesn’t mess you around, and I think he’s been very up front in terms of it is Tomas’s shirt.

“I like to hear that, and if I want it I have to go and get it. I know exactly where I lie, I’ve no issue with that, because I know exactly what I have to do.” 

Click HERE to watch an interview with Michael Kelly on iFollow United now.

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