Sport

Derry City’s Daniel Kelly says team-mate Pat Hoban is an ‘incredible player’

Both players have joined the Candystripes from Dundalk ahead of the new season

Daniel Kelly
Daniel Kelly Daniel Kelly will join forces with former Dundalk team-mate Pat Hoban at Brandywell Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile (Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE/SPORTSFILE)

WINGER Daniel Kelly knows better than most that a fired-up Pat Hoban can only help Derry City in their quest of winning their first League of Ireland title since the 1996-97 season.

Dundalk’s all-time leading goalscorer left Oriel Park in somewhat controversial circumstances during the off-season and Kelly feels the talented front-man is as hungry as ever, which can only be a good thing for Derry manager Ruaidhrí Higgins.

“Obviously the lads who have been here have done well, but I think Pat is just on another level,” said Kelly, who has also swapped the Lilywhites for the Candystripes ahead of the new season.

“He has been around the league for the last few years and he’s not the all-time top goalscorer for Dundalk for no reason.

“He’s an incredible player and it’s a pleasure to be playing with him. I played with him for five years and another two at least here, which is great.

“He’s just a proven goalscorer and he’ll do it everywhere he goes and the more people that doubt him, the better he is, so if people keep doubting him, let them.”

The 27-year-old Kelly can’t wait to get going, and says the excitement in Derry is at fever pitch ahead of Friday night’s league opener against Drogheda United.

“I know how passionate the fans are here,” he said.

“It’s a very passionate fanbase and you very rarely see people going around in Arsenal or Liverpool jerseys, it’s all Derry City gear, so we owe it to the fans to try and do something special for them this year.

“Obviously expectation levels at the Brandywell are big. The gaffer has been building over the last two or three years and everything has been on the up, so hopefully myself and Pat have strengthened the squad and we can go for what most people are here for, and that’s to try and win trophies.

“I actually went to the FAI Cup final two years ago and the fans that Derry brought to the Aviva was amazing. The fans were actually going right by my house and it was an incredible fanbase, so if we were to do something special it would be genuinely incredible.

“Everyone knows pre-season is all about firstly getting the rustiness out of our system and then secondly getting the minutes into the legs, and I feel we’ve started to get a real flow to our game over the last few weeks and everyone is looking forward to the season.”

Kelly can play in a number of positions and he won’t mind where he’s asked to play, as along as he’s in the starting line-up.

“I’ve played up front or out on the left or right and he [Higgins] does know that I can play in either one of those positions, but from my point of view if I’m on the pitch and if I can stay injury-free, I’ll be a happy camper,” he said.

The former Bohemians man said adapting to life on Foyleside has been made easier as he has played with a good portion of the Candystripes squad before.

“There’s a lot of winners in our dressing room and the likes of Mark Connolly, Patch (Will Patching), Fats (Patrick McEleney), Cameron Dummigan and Mickey [Duffy], they’re top talent around the league, so it’s great to be a part of it,” he said.

“We just want to build something special because it has been a while since Derry won the league, so we’re really hoping we can put it to bed this year.

“The fans have obviously backed the team and have supported them the last few years in particular, so it’s time to give it back to them and hopefully please God we can do that.

“If you’re a professional footballer you are going to get pressure and no one is immune to it, but it’s something that we have to thrive on.”

The Ringsend native is expecting another tight title race, with every team more than capable of beating each other, and he feels the younger generation of managers like Higgins, Stephen Bradley, Jon Daly, Damien Duff, Kevin Doherty and Stephen O’Donnell has only improved the standard of the league.

“I think this year’s league is going be quite similar to last year where you can see teams beating each other,” he said.

“I feel that because there’s a lot of coaches that are really good.

“I also feel that teams coming here to the Brandywell may try and play defensively and we’ll obviously have to try and figure them out, so it’s going to be hugely competitive.”