FORMER Derry City goalkeeper Rory Kelly is within 90 minutes of securing a life-changing professional contract with either Swindon Town or Leyton Orient.
The 21-year-old Buncrana lad has progressed to the final of Samsung’s nationwide ‘Win a Pro Contract’ competition along with 10 others having been whittled down from more than 5,000 entrants.
Kelly impressed in the semi-final trial- an 11 a-side match held at League Two outfit, Swindon’s County Ground - and was selected for the final by Swindon boss, Paolo Di Canio and Leyton Orient manager, Russell Slade.
Rory and 10 other players will now face a Leyton Orient XI at the club’s Matchroom Stadium on Wednesday, January 16th.
The Inishowen man was delighted to make it to the final selection process and is expecting a tough challenge from the remaining hopefuls to secure the winning contract.
“I was happy with my performance in the last trial,” said Rory. “I played well and felt comfortable throughout the match.
“The standard of football was very good,” he added. “There are some really talented players left in the competition so it’s going to be tough to win it.
“I’m going to enjoy Christmas and then start preparing for the final. It’s exciting to think that I’m so close to a professional contract.
“It would be unreal to play football for a living - the stuff of dreams. Hopefully I’ll perform to my best and that will be enough.”
Leyton Orient boss, Slade has been impressed with the former ‘Candy Stripes’ performances in the competition so far.
“Rory has proved he’s got talent but the final will be the toughest test he’s faced so far.
“I’m looking for players who can step up and show they have what it takes to become a professional - skill, fitness and the right attitude.
“Whoever I choose to win a contract will have shown me something special.”
And Swindon Town supremo, Di Canio added: “All the finalists have done well to make it this far. They should be proud of their achievements.
“I am looking for a player who will fit into my current squad and improve as a footballer. He must have a good attitude and be willing to learn.
“There is an amazing prize on offer,” he continued. “The players will have to work hard to show that they deserve it.”
After the final, Di Canio and Slade will invite a select group of players to train for a week with their respective first team squads.
The managers will then pick one player and offer them a one-year professional contract.
Sky Sports will broadcast a three-part series on this season’s Samsung ‘Win a Pro Contract’ competition in the new year.