Ten years ago I was managing the Slaughtneil U12 team. It was the days of the U12 championship, before the introduction of Go Games. We beat Magherafelt in a semi-final and were down to play Kilrea in the final. James Kielt was midfield for Kilrea and Frankie Kelly was playing centre back for us.
At that time, James and Frankie were heading off to the Gaeltacht college together. They were both due to return home on the second weekend to play against each other in the final. Planning for the big game, I realised we needed a tactical plan to counteract the James Kielt influence. After much deliberation, I came up with a fool
I kept Frankie Kelly behind after training one night to outline his role in the plan. Frankie was to get Liam Kielt to take them down to Donegal and Kevin Kelly was to collect them, parents sharing lifts was a sensible enough idea.
Leaving their house in Donegal, Frankie was to lock James in the wardrobe, make a dash for the car, get Kevin to step on the gas and head for home. It would leave ‘wee Martin’ McWilliams with a selection headache when he noticed there was an empty seat on the bus that morning. Simple as that.
probably have guessed, I didn’t actually come up with this plan. I merely joked to Frankie that he should lock James in the wardrobe. I would have been taken up with the child protection authorities. Also, I would have my former Biology teacher, Liam Kielt to answer too.
We lost the final 1-9 to 1-6, Kilrea’s goal
proving the winner, scored by none other than James Kielt. He ran through the entire Slaughtneil defence and kicked an unstoppable shot past ‘keeper Sean Cassidy. In the technical area, as I kicked the water bottle in frustration, I regretted not making Frankie carry out the plan!
More recently James Kielt had a hand in knocking Slaughtneil out of the senior championship. As I congratulated James in Glenullin car park after the game, his body language suggested Kilrea had made a significant step forward in their development. James is the latest of the players in action this weekend to step Into The Spotlight.
Name: James Kielt
Nickname: Jimmy, JK, Jimbob or Big Jimmy Dog according to Mark Lynch!
Boots: Normally the reliable Puma Kings or Adidas World Cup. My chosen gloves would have to be Mikasas.
Favourite film: It’s got to be Dumb and Dumber.
Favourite song: I’ll go with Streets of Philadelphia by The Boss.
Favourite food: Hard to beat a well done steak at the Harbour/Ramore.
Favourite drink: A good hot whiskey on a freezing night in
Favourite pitch: Obviously Croker is something else. Locally, Castledawson’s pitch is in some nick.
Best thing about football: Apart from the friends you make and the craic, the 10 minute pre-training ‘kickabout’ can be special.
Worst thing about football: I've missed quite a few holidays, stag weekends and big sporting events due to the football, but sacrifices have to be made.
Pre match meal: Just some chicken and rice/pasta...the usual.
Pre game superstition: For big championship matches I suppose I would normally put some holy water on the boots (well the left one at least).
Toughest opponent: Too tough to call. I've played on the same pitch as Colm Cooper, the O’Sé brothers and Bernard Brogan. On the club scene, it would be Skinner and Muldoon. Many great players in their own right
Best player played with: For sheer talent it would be Lee Kennedy with Kilrea and Skinner with the county.
Sporting Highlight: Going through the whole
Derry underage unbeaten was a great achievement and captaining Derry on All-Ireland Final day at . A real privilege. Croke Park
Biggest Disappointment: Losing the All-Ireland final mentioned above. I also regret never playing in a MacRory final with St Pat’s.
Childhood idol: It would have been Tohill, Dara O’Sé and the most naturally gifted footballer I have ever seen, Maurice Fitzgerald. A legend.
Biggest influence in your career: Parents. My father would always give advice or as some may say 'constructive criticism' and my mother would rarely miss any game.
Advice for young players: Practice with both feet as early as possible, you get out of the game what you put into it and most importantly enjoy playing because it flies by.
Best trainer in the club: Probably a toss up between my brother Jack and Paudie Mullan. They love doing extra sprints.
Worst trainer in the club: Paul Morgan, completely out of shape.
Other Sports played: Poker would be hard to avoid around Kilrea.
NOTE…..The common argument is that country teams retain more of their players from underage than town teams. Here are the starting teams from that U12 final, in bold are the players that started in the 2011 senior championship game. It’s now ten years on and Kilrea faired out much better than we did. In fairness that was a remarkable Kilrea team.
Kilrea: Johnny Barkley, Eamon Darragh, Liam Morrow, James Quigg, Rory Quigg, Michael McWilliams, Kevin Quigg, James Kielt, Benny McCusker, Conor Quigg, Enda McAleese, Lee Kennedy, Christopher Dempsey, Rory McWilliams, Gavin McWilliams.
Sean Cassidy, Bliadhan Glass, Antoin McMullan, Gearoid Kelly, Christopher Dougan, Frankie Kelly, Fergal McKenna, Ciaran McKaigue, Christopher McKaigue, Fergal McMullan, Peter Convery, Colm Kearney, Eunan Farren, Kevin O’Neill, Henry Cassidy.