Think of a typical underdog GAA team and the first name that often springs to mind is Sligo. The county team’s exploits included holding Armagh to a draw in 2002 and winning the Connacht championship in 2007. Yet their form of late had not been as impressive. Until this year.
A new generation of Sligo players seems to be emerging, and they could worry a few teams in this years’ championship. Already they have beaten Tipperary, a team that made the semi-finals last year.
John Kelly from Tourlestrane, a small community town in the south of Sligo, is one of the members of this team. His wonder goal for his club in the county final in 2016 went viral. The 23-year-old divides his time between college in Dublin and playing for his county at weekends. He has also been on the Ireland darts team, and enjoys playing golf.
So what next for Sligo? As a barman in the local pub, Joe Dan’s, John Kelly is the toast of Tourlestrane. Yet can his team really worry the big boys in this years’ championship?
‘Ah sure it would be class if we did.’ Kelly enthuses. ‘We’d need to pull our socks up, though. We’re not a hundred per cent at the back, and we’ve been lucky with our recent results.’
‘We’re nowhere near Croke Park yet, but we are heading in that direction at least.’
Youngest of a family of six, with a sister in Australia and two others engaged, John was named after his late father who passed away in 1994, before John’s birth. His mother Patricia brought up the family herself and still continues to support her son proudly from the sidelines. Recent ligament and knee operations have rendered him out of action, but he is now back in the first team and ready for action.
With more luck and dedication, the team of 2002 may have a summer to remember. Whether John Kelly can outshine the dynamic David Kelly in the first team remains to be seen.