Mark Connolly lauds Derry City's 'fantastic' new signing Daniel Kelly
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The announcement of the former Dundalk man's signing last Friday was met by excitement by Connolly who was on a family holiday in Tenerife when the news broke.
Having played alongside the flying winger for six months during his loan spell at Oriel Park in 2022, Connolly knows all about Kelly's qualities both on and off the pitch.
It's the type of signing which has signalled Derry's intent for next season as they bid to close the gap on Shamrock Rovers who finished seven points better off than the Candy Stripes in 2023.
And Connolly reckons the addition of another player with a winning pedigree can only enhance Derry's chances of winning that elusive league title.
"'Dickie' is a fantastic signing for the football club," beamed the centre back.
"He's someone I obviously played with at Dundalk during my six months there and he's an extremely good player.
"He's won everything there is to win in the league. He's played in the group stages in Europe and has the pedigree that we need at the football club.
"He's someone who Ruaidhri, Patrick McEleney, Mickey Duffy and [Will] Patching and [Cameron] Dummigan all know and know what he's about.
"When they found out we were able to sign him they were excited about what was happening."
Kelly, who revealed he turned down several offers from Dublin clubs in favour of a 'new challenge' in the north west, will be a seamless fit into the Derry dressing room according to his former Dundalk teammate who has remained in contact with the Ringsend man ever since his own spell at Oriel Park came to an end in 2022.
"He's a fantastic boy, a great lad,” added the City defender. “I've still kept in contact with him to this day.
" In football when you're playing you lose contact with a lot of people and players, that's just the nature of the job but he's someone I kept in contact with.
"Not because of playing football but because of who he is as a person, he's genuine and someone I have a lot of time for. He's just a really good lad and a great addition to the dressing room.
"Ruaidhri's big on bringing in, not only playing-wise and how you are as a player and performances but also off the field and how you are as a person and what dynamic you bring to the dressing room and he's a bubbly boy. He's really good, he's funny with a good sense of humour."
Similarly to Kelly’s situation, Monaghan native Connolly made the decision to move further away from his hometown and northwards in pursuit of silverware and the defender recognises the move as a 'big sacrifice' which shows the determination and desire to win from Derry's newest recruit.
"Obviously when it comes to work time he's ready to switch on but as a football club, it's a fantastic signing.
"It’s another case of Ruaidhri, again using his contacts well and obviously 'Dickie' for himself to leave Dublin and come to Derry is a big sacrifice for him.
"I'm sure he could have stayed at Dundalk or up to Dublin but the football club has turned his head and got him to Derry which is massive for us.”Connolly plans on returning to pre-season sooner than most given his lack of playing time last term due to injury and the arrival of Kelly to Foyleside has certainly whetted his appetite ahead of a pivotal campaign for the Candy Stripes."I played with him for a short time and can't wait to get playing with him again. I'm sure Patrick (McEleney) and Mickey (Duffy) and the rest of the boys can't wait to play with him again as well.
"I've no doubt he will add quality and what we need for this football club to drive forward and push on and win titles and win cups and he's someone I think will be massive for us moving forward.”
As Higgins’ first off-season signing, it bodes well for the upcoming campaign.
"As a whole, for the football club, I think it's a fantastic signing. As the first signing of the off season it`s massive for us and a great signing from Ruaidhri. I'm looking forward to working with him again."
In terms of what Kelly will bring to the team, Connolly reckons the Dubliner’s finishing goes under the radar.
"I think Ruaidhri has obviously done his homework in what he wants and needs and 'Dickie' is a player who will add experience and quality to the squad. He's a winger who can play both sides and can play up front as well.
"During my short time with Dundalk he was someone who, when given the chance, can finish.
"He can score goals. I actually said that to Ruaidhri when I came in and we were speaking about football right at the start. I said about Dickie and how good a finisher he is.
"It actually goes unnoticed how good he is when he gets into one v. one situations.
"He scored a lot of goals for a winger and in terms of an attacking player, that's something we need to add to our game and as a football team we need to move forward with.
"Daniel's someone who can do that,” concluded the Monaghan man.