Kelly relishing his return to the north-west

With three wins on the bounce in the Airtricity League First Division there’s a spring in the step of those who follow the fortunes of Finn Harps and one Donegal man is certainly looking forward to Saturday night’s fixture in Ballybofey.

With three wins on the bounce in the Airtricity League First Division there’s a spring in the step of those who follow the fortunes of Finn Harps and one Donegal man is certainly looking forward to Saturday night’s fixture in Ballybofey.

Killybegs native Shaun Kelly, though, will be wearing the colours of Limerick at Finn Park as the side from Shannonside eye top spot in the table, dependant on results elsewhere. Kelly once fleetingly represented Harps in a pre-season friendly against Shelbourne when Paul Hegarty was in charge but these days he’s more than content with life in Ireland’s oldest city.

Limerick won 13 of their last 15 outings after the now 23-year-old joined the club from Galway United last term but they missed out on promotion and even the solace of a play-off because of the impressive runs of Cork City, Shelbourne and Monaghan United. With essentially a Premier Division squad at his disposal, Pat Scully and his team were installed as unbackable favourites to win the second flight, with some bookmakers quoting them at as little as 1/6.

“There were some unrealistic expectations at the start of the season and people were saying that we might get through the entire campaign unbeaten but that was never going to happen,” Kelly says. “To be honest, we’ve won five and lost two from our first seven and are sitting in second place just one behind Longford Town so we’re not too disappointed at how things are going.

“We’ve set ourselves a target to get promoted and after beating Cork City 3-0 in the EA Sports League Cup have a game against St Patrick’s Athletic to look forward to, so at the minute we’re doing okay.

“We lost our last home game against Longford Town, which was disappointing as we had a crowd in the region of 1,300 but put that right last weekend to win 1-0 away to a Wexford Youths side who were second in the table going into the game. As everyone knows, Limerick is a rugby-mad city and there is a huge support for it but if we can get a little run going then we might raise the interest levels as the rugby season is coming to an end and Munster are already out of the Heineken Cup. I’m enjoying it down here.”

Kelly, who was on the bench for Heart of Midlothian’s first team as a teenager for an Edinburgh derby against Hibernian, has represented both Dundalk and Galway since returning to more homely shores. And although his move to Harps in the spring of 2008 never materialised, he still keeps an eye on the Ballybofey side’s results.

“I was at Hearts with Ciaran Coll and would also be friendly with Ciaran Greene and James Doherty so Harps are a team I’d always check on,” Kelly adds. “It was always the same really. To be honest, Killybegs to Limerick is a bit of a trek but I always enjoy getting the chance to play at Harps in front of my friends and family.

“We managed to beat them 2-1 on the opening night of the season but they impressed me. With Peter Hutton and Felix Healy they have experience and a good balance to the team. But I’m playing for Limerick and our priority is to win the division but it would great to see Harps up there with us.”