Daniel Kelly’s debut season at Dundalk has been pretty special but things got even better for the flying winger on Sunday when he fulfilled a lifetime ambition of getting a run-out at the Aviva Stadium next month.
Growing up in Ringsend, the shadow of the famous old ground at Lansdowne Road has loomed over him for 23 years.
Like every youngster in the country, Kelly dreamed of one day playing there but never thought it would happen.
Now he will have the opportunity on Sunday November 3rd when Dundalk bid to complete a domestic treble against old foes Shamrock Rovers.
Having been a losing semi-finalist with Bohemians 12 months ago, Kelly said it would be particularly sweet to play there having looked on from the stands as Dundalk beat Cork City 2-1 last season.
“Last year I actually went to watch the match. We probably should have been there ourselves but we were a bit unlucky with Bohs. To go one step closer this year is unbelievable.
“I was speaking to the lads, the likes of Sean Gannon and Robbie Benson, and they said it’s the best day out and you can’t beat it. I can’t wait. It’s basically in my back garden so I can’t wait.
“I haven’t got near to it before this. I’ve only been in it and on the pitch a couple of times but I’ve never actually played in it. It’s a big huge pitch and it’s something which for the last couple of years I’ve dreamt of. Before that I never thought that I would get there other than watching a match but it’s unbelievable.
“I know having lost a semi-final last year, there’s nothing worse and it takes a long time to overcome it but to go one step closer this year is unbelievable. There’s other lads in the dressing room who have been there and done it but this is my first time and I can’t wait for it.”
Kelly praised his side’s ability to get late goals and win when perhaps not at their best.
“We worked our socks off tonight and it was a tough battle but that’s the type of team we are. We can win in different ways and thank God we came out the right end of it.
“The ability to get so many late goals is pretty special. I think we are the fittest team. I’m not saying they got sloppy or slow or anything but we pressed them well and with a few minutes to go I felt we really started to hurt them and we got a bit unlucky with a few chances. Sean Murray maybe could have scored but I just felt we were getting closer and closer and thankfully it just fell to Mickey and that’s the man you want it to fall to on these occasions.”
While lifting the FAI Cup so close to home would be a dream come true for Kelly, he knows his side will get nothing easy against Shamrock Rovers in the final.
“The league table doesn’t lie. The two best teams are in the final. It’s going to be a really tough game.
“They’re a decent side and even though we’ve beaten them already this season, going into the final it’s 50/50 and anything can happen. No matter what it’s going to be a tough game,” he said.