Colin Kelly brings just the right kind of experience and eye to Wicklow role

Division Three team-by-team guide ahead of the start of the league campaign

Wicklow manager Colin Kelly  has plenty of experience of Division Three football. Photograph: Ben Brady/Inpho

Wicklow manager Colin Kelly has plenty of experience of Division Three football. Photograph: Ben Brady/Inpho

Your Web Browser may be out of date. If you are using Internet Explorer 9, 10 or 11 our Audio player will not work properly.
For a better experience use Google Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

 

He may be in his first year as Wicklow manager but Colin Kelly is hugely and relevantly experienced. This is the third county he’s taken charge of and the other two – his own Louth and Westmeath – are both also in Division Three.

Kelly takes over from Kildare man Davy Burke, who managed the unexpected feat of keeping Wicklow in the division last year; unexpected because it required a playoff victory over reigning Ulster champions Cavan.

Appointed last autumn, he was enthusiastic because of what he had observed about the county.

“It’s been my experience for years whether playing against Wicklow or managing against them that they always seemed to have their best players. That hasn’t changed.”

That’s pretty important for a county in Wicklow’s position? His rejoinder is sharp.

“It’s pretty important for any team and it highlights the regard which guys have for Wicklow football.”

In his four years managing at intercounty, Kelly achieved two promotions and suffered one relegation. He walked away from Louth having brought the county to Division Two but feeling that he had achieved all he could.

Three of those four seasons were spent in Division Three, making him something of an expert guiding Leinster counties in the division. What lessons has he taken from these experiences?

“It’s like anything else. It’s great to have young talent coming through but you learn a lot of things: about squads in transition and blending in with older players. I think that’s the most important thing – the integration of younger footballers into the squad.

“That’s one thing you learn. It’s a big step up and you have to be patient. There’s a big difference between an 18-year old stepping up to 20s and a 20-year-old stepping up to senior.

“I encountered this first with Louth. We had a lot of brilliant players over the previous decade, who were stepping away. A young squad struggled in Division Three that year and ended up in Division Four but we had a great learning experience in Division Three and it stood to us. We went up a couple of divisions.

“Being patient with younger talent is what stays with me but your senior players have a serious role in this. Essentially every county’s doing the same thing.”

Wicklow are in a challenging position, in transition and whereas that young talent is there, shaping it and guiding the team to another season beating the drop will be a good year’s work.

Preparations for the season have been like in a number of counties disrupted by extraordinary – pandemic – and familiar – Sigerson commitments – problems.

“We’d a bit of bother with Covid at the start of the year and we have a couple of niggles but nothing serious. There’s also a big workload on guys involved in the Sigerson. We have about six or seven involved in colleges football, who are instrumental to us and that’s affected us in terms of coaching and training but we just deal with it and get on with it.”

Presumably he and Wicklow are targeting an extension to life in Division Three.

“Being totally honest I don’t set targets down the line. My aim is to improve Wicklow as a football team and build on the efforts of Davy Burke, Jonny Magee and John Evans. If we can do that, it brings a more ‘professional’ edge and results will look after themselves.”

Neither is he wasting energy pondering the prospects of championship reform and the upcoming tier two championship, the Tailteann Cup.

“Look, those decisions are made and we have to run with them. I’m not getting caught up in it. We are in a couple of competitions and the first one is the national league, which is very important to us.

“Obviously we’ll sit down and look at the championship in due course but now, we’re not looking beyond Westmeath at the weekend and Fermanagh the week after.”

Laois’ Evan O’Carroll wins the ball ahead of Kieran Kennedy of Dublin during the O’Byrne Cup Final. Photograph: Ken Sutton/Inpho
Laois’ Evan O’Carroll wins the ball ahead of Kieran Kennedy of Dublin during the O’Byrne Cup Final. Photograph: Ken Sutton/Inpho

Seán Moran’s Division Three team-by-team guide

ANTRIM
Manager:
Enda McGinley
2021: Promoted from Division Four and lost Ulster QF to Armagh
Opening fixture: v Fermanagh (away)
Under Enda McGinley, Antrim are back in this division for the first time in five years, made a decent impression and have been competitive in the McKenna Cup.

FERMANAGH
Manager:
Kieran Donnelly
2021: Division Three semi-final and lost Ulster QF to Monaghan
Opening fixture: v Antrim (home)
Former player Kieran Donnelly takes the reins with Fermanagh in rebuild mode, a task made trickier by the retirement of former captain Eoin Donnelly and a pre-season Covid outbreak.

LIMERICK
Manager:
Billy Lee
2021: Division Three semi-final and lost Munster SF to Cork
Opening fixture: v Longford (home)
A good 2021 but not a great start to this year with defensive stalwart Brian Fanning opting out a few weeks ago. Former manager Maurice Horan has joined Lee as coach.

LAOIS
Manager:
Billy Sheehan
2021: Relegated Division Two and lost Leinster QF to Westmeath
Opening fixture: v Louth (away)
An ultimately encouraging run in the O’Byrne Cup has seen good performances by Evan O’Carroll up front and Alex Mohan in defence but Billy Sheehan will look for greater consistency.

LONGFORD
Manager:
Billy O’Loughlin
2021: Beat Tipperary in relegation playoff and lost Leinster QF to Meath
Opening fixture: v Limerick (away)
The longest serving tenants in the division, Longford are another under new management. Billy O’Loughlin gave plenty of exposure to new faces in the O’Byrne Cup and results were moderately encouraging.

LOUTH
Manager:
Mickey Harte
2021: Promoted Division Four and lost Leinster R1 to Offaly
Opening fixture: v Laois (home)
Mickey Harte made an impact in his first year but the air now gets thinner. He introduced a raft of new players during three O’Byrne Cup defeats. Consolidation is likely ambition.

WESTMEATH
Manager:
Jack Cooney
2021: Relegated Division Three and lost Leinster SF to Kildare
Opening fixture: v Wicklow (home)
Favourites to return quickly after some decent displays last year – despite relegation – nearly yielded a Leinster final place. Promotion has added bonus of likely Sam Maguire status.

WICKLOW
Manager:
Colin Kelly
2021: Beat Cavan in relegation playoff and lost Leinster R1 to Wexford
Opening fixture: v Westmeath (away)
Surprise survivors last year, Wicklow are up against it this season. Colin Kelly is experienced but knows the team needs rebooting. O’Byrne Cup form was encouraging with Blessington star Kevin Quinn shining.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.