Six weeks ago this Saturday, Courtwood forward Matthew Kelly walked up the steps in O’Moore Park and lifted Courtwood’s first IFC title since 1987.
It was a phenomenal achievement for his side who saw off Mountmellick Gaels in the final and will now begin their Leinster campaign away to Louth outfit St Mochtas at 1.30pm in Ardee on Saturday.
Kelly only joined Courtwood in 2015 from his native Mostrim in Longford after marrying Patricia O’Connell, whose family have a long association with the club. Speaking to LaoisToday, he revealed he had no idea his career would take him down this path but says it has been an honour.
He said: “I never thought I would end up in Laois, far from it to be honest but it has been an absolute honour and pleasure to play for Courtwood.
“I arrived the year after they won the Junior and to see how things have transformed is really remarkable.
“This is my fourth season now and to get to be captain has been something I’ve really enjoyed. The lads are brilliant and everyone is 100% focused and committed.
“The set up under Eddie (Kinsella), John (Doran) and Fergal (Byron) is brilliant and evetyone has bought into that.”
Courtwood have brought through a flood of juvenile players to their team this year and Kelly believes this has been the biggest factor in their success.
He said: “We’re a small club but this year we’ve had 25-30 lads down training every night and it makes some difference.
“Those young lads are so enthusiastic and hungry for success. They won all around them at underage and know no different than winning.
“I was disappointed to be black carded so early in the final but then you see young Cian Doyle coming in and doing so well from the bench.
“He and Andrew Flynn are pushing hard for a start on Saturday while so too is Paddy Wilson. And Luke Doyle is back now too after missing so long with injury so the squad is getting stronger all the time which is great.”
Louth intermediate champions St Mochtas defeated Longwood of Meath in Round 1 two weeks’ ago and Kelly is expecting a very difficult task against them.
He said: “We have looked at St Mochtas and they are certainly a physically strong team.
“They play a defensive style too which is probably something we didn’t really encounter in Laois this year so we will have to adapt accordingly.
“But there is a great buzz about the place and we are determined to keep our run going.”