Refereeing wasn't for him but Eoin Kelly has the family passion for the beautiful game

Refereeing wasn't for him but Eoin Kelly has the family passion for the beautiful game

Avondale's Eoin Kelly clears from Corinthians Shane O'Sullivan during the Junior League Cup at Garryduff /Picture: Eddie O'Hare

THE family business wasn’t for him but he has found a way to stay involved in the game, his father and brothers have been a huge part of in Cork and the States.

Eoin Kelly is the youngest son of famous referee Pat Kelly and while his other sons Alan and Graham have taken to refereeing like ducks to water, Eoin’s passion is coaching.

Kelly enjoyed his playing career in which he started with Avondale and later had spells with Glasheen and Crofton/Garryduff. However, due to injuries, he felt it was time to hang up his boots.

His love for the game meant he was keen to stay involved in some capacity.

“Going back to as a young kid football was always my first sport,” said Kelly. 

"Obviously having my father as a referee I used to travel to matches all over Cork and further afield so my love for the game was from a very early age. I played for my local club Avondale but I also had a few years with Glasheen having great memories with the late John Murray who sadly passed away recently. 

"I also had a spell with Crofton-Garyduff before finally going back to Avondale. To be fair I played at a good level growing up captaining the junior team and been called up to the senior set up under John Caulfield for a few games but that level was too big of a step up for me if I’m honest. 

"However I had some great managers, all of whom gave me an incentive to eventually get involved in coaching. And so when I decided to hang up the boots, I knew coaching was the pathway for me."

He started thinking about coaching in his late '20s after he completed the FAS course with Mick Conroy and the late Paul Bannon. 

"I was a very vocal player on the pitch so always felt I could bring that as a coach.

“I first started doing a bit of coaching with Crofton Celtic a few years back with Sean Cotter, we had a good relationship because we both had a drive to help grow as a club. 

"I took over as chairman of Crofton to try help the club and bring fresh ideas but with the lack of our own facilities and the difficulty of getting funding and support the team folded and the club only has it's over 35 team which was a huge pity.

“I decided after a short break I wanted to get involved in coaching and I went back to my local club Avondale and started helping out with their U17s, then U18s.

The Avondale U17 squad in 2015, along with Eoin Kelly, Hugh Kavanagh and Kevin Daly. Picture: Mike English.
The Avondale U17 squad in 2015, along with Eoin Kelly, Hugh Kavanagh and Kevin Daly. Picture: Mike English.

“I then got involved in the junior premier team that following season bringing a few of the U19s with me and now I am currently manager of the Avondale junior premier team. It’s a shame the season stopped when it did as we were having a decent spell." 

He now's been involved with this junior squad for a few years and they've enjoyed a lot of success.

"The group are committed, hard-working, honest and there's plenty of quality in the squad with a few of the lads more than capable of playing senior. The ambition of the club is to promote football at all levels including girls and women's football to reach the highest level and to give them the opportunity to show their true potential.

"The club needs to focus on bringing through its local players and coaching them at younger levels to prepare them for the step up to junior and senior league and to have that connection."

For anyone that has ever managed a team, they are aware of the commitment involved. Although it can be one of the most enjoyable experiences, it is hard work and time-consuming.

For the 39-year-old from Blackrock to put so much extra time into looking after the club and its facilities, is a testament to his passion for the sport.

“Since the second lockdown it's been tough but I try keep myself occupied by making sure Avondale Park is kept in good condition. The grass is maintained by Paddy Scannell and I'm currently doing small improvements around the ground to have the place ready for when we get back training. 

"During the off season we would be in Avondale Park almost every day trying to improve the grounds with little resources, we have just to try get the standards up. Over the past couple of years we have improved the clubhouse, the training area and fitted new lights and the pitch is looking better than ever and so after spending hours every day helping out, you feel good to know you’re doing your bit for the club.” 

Proud of what his father and brothers have achieved, Kelly likes to think he choose his own path, one in which he thoroughly enjoys and always has the support from his family.

“I’ve seen my father and two brothers go on to have great success as referees and I'm proud of what they have achieved. I never had the bug for it myself although I tried a season of it on the astro leagues and it wasn't for me but never say never. 

"I love the training sessions, preparing the sessions and match days and trying to get the players to understand the game and to try and bring abit of the professional side to it even though it's only amateur football. 

"With my family’s history in the game I was always going to have some involvement in the game and even though it's on the sideline and not the man in the middle I get great support from my dad and brothers.

"It also doesn’t stop me from occasionally having a rant about the officials but that’s just my passion for the game,” laughs Kelly.

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