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Football: Kelly has Brandy in his veins; CARLSBERG FAI CUP FINAL: DERRY v ST PATRICK'S, TODAY, 3.15 EXCLUSIVE Super Daz's homing in.

Byline: By CIARAN O RAGHALLAIGH

DARREN KELLY grew up just a stone's throw from Derry's Brandy well stadium.

Not one for indulging in clichAs, he said with a wry smile: "Seriously - you throw a stone in my backyard and it would hit the back of the Brandywell!

"This club is very much part of my life, that's that's why winning the FAI Cup means so much."

Kelly (right) rejoined the Candy stripes this season after four years on his travels, with stops at Carlisle and Portadown, and he has already lifted the League Cup.

Having initially made his debut for the club at 15, it's fair to say he's noticed the changes since he's been away.

"It's amazing to think how close this club was to going to the wall," commenting on the financial problems that forced him out.

"When I first played with Derry City, you'd walk into JJB Sports and the bargain bin would be flooded with Derry City shirts, half-price and less.

"Now you can't get a City shirt for love nor money in town."

It seems they now buy them and put their heroes names on the back.

He said: "It takes a bit of getting used to, walking around your home town and seeing a young fella with a Derry City shirt and your name on the back."

But then he laughed: I didn't think I would see that. It might be different if you are Steven Gerrard walking around Liverpool, but not Darren Kelly in Derry."

Kelly has earned the right to be considered for the back of a fan's replica shirt.

He has been one of Derry's top performers this season - his consistency earning a place on the Professional Footballers Association's team of the year.

Kelly also scored in Derry's UEFA Cup campaign, the winning goal in the League Cup final penalty shoot out against Shels and also the winner against the Reds in the Cup.

Somehow, he'll remember this season - win or lose today. Most of all he'll recall this year as the 'Stephen Kenny' season.

The manager convinced Kelly to move from Portadown in May and Kelly has since been touted for a Northern Ireland cap.

That's just one of the reasons he'll be sad when the final whistle blows and Kenny's reigns finally ends.

Kelly admitted: "It's a big loss, not just for me, but for the other players, for the board, for the rest of the staff at the club and for the city.

"You can't really blame him for looking at the massive challenge [of the SPL] and deciding to take it.

"I think it would be the perfect send-off for him if we managed to win the cup for Stephen."

ROAD TO THE FINAL

ROUND ONE

Malahide United 0

St Patrick's Athletic 2

ROUND TWO

St Patrick's Athletic 2

Dundalk 0

QUARTER-FINALS

St Patrick's Athletic 4

Longford Town 1

SEMI-FINALS

Shamrock Rovers 0

St Patrick's Athletic 2

DID YOU KNOW THAT..

THIS is Derry City's seventh Cup Final since they joined the League of Ireland in 1985 - more than any other club during that period. They have won it three times in 1989, 1992 and 2002 and were runners-up in 1988, 1994 and 1997.

PAT'S have been in the League 34 years longer than Derry but incredibly, have won the Cup just twice - in 1959 and 1961.

The fans' dream of putting an end to the '45 years of hurt' but have seen more defeats than most - six!

TODAY'S MATCH ODDS

(Courtesy of Paddy Power)

Derry 8/11 Draw 9/4 Pat's 10/3
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 3, 2006
Words:597
Previous Article:Football: McDONNELL: KERR INSIGHT WILL HELP US; CARLSBERG FAI CUP FINAL: DERRY v ST PATRICK'S, TODAY, 3.15.
Next Article:Football: KENNY DID US PROUD - RODDY.


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