Colin Kelly looking to guide Wicklow to a higher place

Colin Kelly during his Louth days. Now at Wicklow, he'll be hoping to inflict a second defeat on Fermanagh this weekend
Colin Kelly during his Louth days. Now at Wicklow, he'll be hoping to inflict a second defeat on Fermanagh this weekend

WICKLOW boss Colin Kelly has bemoaned the lack of preparation time his squad has had as they aim to bounce back against Fermanagh on home soil this Sunday.

The much-travelled Louth native, who took the reins from Davy Burke at the end of last season, saw 14-man Wicklow lose their opening Division Three game to Westmeath, a side Kelly also managed in recent years.

Due to COVID and the teething problems of the split season, Kelly feels Wicklow could have done with a few more weeks’ training ahead of the National League, especially given that League performances are being linked to Championship status for Division Two and Three teams.

“We had six or seven lads involved in Sigerson Cup, we had the O’Byrne Cup where we had three matches in seven days and then you’d COVID on top of that,” said Kelly.

“As a squad we probably needed more time on the training pitch and to improve as a group. We wanted to be ready for the National League but it’s been a strain on our squad. That’s my worry. There are guys coming out of tough club seasons and they’re pushed into college and county football.

“I know this is our first year with Wicklow and we’re learning as we go along but your League position is going to determine what Championship you’ll be playing in.”

Kelly had expressed an interest in the Wicklow job when John Evans was appointed manager in 2017 and was only to happy accept the Garden County’s call after Burke departed having gained promotion to Division Three at the hands of Cavan last summer.

“I showed an interest in getting involved with Wicklow in years gone by and I suppose when the phone call came it was something that intrigued me and I was only too delighted to get back involved.”

While there were a dozen of the Wicklow side that featured in the win over Cavan involved in last week’s five-point loss to Westmeath, Kelly has promoted 14 of last year’s U20 squad and handed out four debuts in Mullingar.

Kelly enjoyed managerial stints with Louth and Westmeath in recent times and says he will always be drawn to the sideline.

He played for Newtown Blues up until he was 31 before moving to Dreadnots, a small club outside Drogheda, where he won a junior championship at the age of 49.

“It’s just the competitive nature of it. It’s probably all I know,” Kelly said.

“I’ve been immersed in the GAA from I was 10 years of age and I’m still immersed in it. I thought there was nothing in life only playing Gaelic football and the next best thing is being able to coach and to stay involved. They’re anything but easy, these jobs.

“But I always say to the Wicklow lads: ‘The side of the line you’re on is much better than the one we’re on – do it for as long as you can.’”

Despite losing by five points in Mullingar, Kelly was still encouraged by what he saw in his first NFL game in charge of Wicklow.

“I liked the spirit and pride the players showed and they played some really good football at times too.

“We’ll just go back to the drawing board and I’m sure Kieran Donnelly is doing the same thing up in Fermanagh, trying to pick up the pieces from the Antrim defeat.

“But there is no trick to this. We’re all trying to do the same thing. You need a little bit of luck and hopefully on Sunday we can go to the same levels as we reached against Westmeath and probably improve a little and we’ll see where that takes us.”