HE may have just turned 19 last Sunday (27 January) but Niall Kelly has already packed a lot into his short career. He had two minor championship medals in his pocket by the age of 16, with the highlight of those two wins undoubtedly being his nerveless last minute 45 to beat Celbridge in 2010 and secure a three-in-a-row for his club.
Kelly’s senior championship debut for his club came in the semi-final win over St Laurence’s in 2011. He marked that occasion with a point and went on to appear as a late substitute against Carbury in the final. An arm injury was to rule him out of Athy’s Leinster campaign, and their successful under-21 team that year, but by the start of the championship last summer, he was a regular for Athy’s seniors. In his first full year in the senior championship, Kelly started all six Athy games and finished with a tally of 1-12, joint tenth top scorer in the championship.
At inter-county level, Kelly made his minor debut at 16 in 2010 in the third of a memorable trilogy of games against Dublin. His all-action display that day certainly hinted at the player he might become but like the rest of that panel, he was left to wonder how Kildare didn’t win a Leinster title that year after getting past the Dubs.
He has started the last eight Kildare minor games over the last three years although Dublin have ended Lilywhite interest in each of the last two years at that grade. Kelly earned some revenge when his senior debut finished the same way as his minor – victory over Dublin.