Ruaidhri Higgins expects Daniel Kelly to be a 'big hit' at Derry City

RUAIDHRI Higgins predicts his first close season signing Daniel Kelly will prove a 'big hit' at Brandywell as the City boss claims he’s been bowled over by the winger's 'desire' to win.
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Dundalk fans certainly won't have Higgins on their Christmas card list this year as Kelly became the SIXTH former Lilywhite to join the Candy Stripes under his stewardship after Patrick McEleney, Michael Duffy, Will Patching, Cameron Dummigan and Mark Connolly, albeit the latter was on loan at Oriel Park from Dundee United.

It's a trend which is evidence of Derry's upward trajectory and ambition as Higgins has shown the club can attract some of the top players in the country to the North West at the peak of their powers - something which hasn't always been the case in the past.

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The arrival of Kelly is a real statement of intent and adds serious firepower to a frontline which is already brimming with talent and potential.

Derry City’s new signing Daniel Kelly pictured with Ruaidhrí Higgins.  Photo: George Sweeney.  Derry City’s new signing Daniel Kelly pictured with Ruaidhrí Higgins.  Photo: George Sweeney.
Derry City’s new signing Daniel Kelly pictured with Ruaidhrí Higgins. Photo: George Sweeney.

The Ringsend man scored nine times from 33 appearances in a Dundalk shirt last season – the highest in the league for a winger. And Higgins is confident that tally can be significantly increased given the creativity already present in the Derry attack.

"Daniel is a player I know really, really well," said the City boss. "I worked with him at Dundalk in 2019. He got 15 goals from wide positions that season. He got nine in 33 appearances in the season just finished from wide areas as well. So he gets goals but not only does he get goals, he gets big goals.

"He's won a league, he's won the cup, he's played in the group stages in Europe so he's been there and done it. He's also a brilliant character who will fit seamlessly into our dressing room and I'm delighted to have him here.

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"If you look at his goal record from wide areas, he's certainly a major threat and on this big pitch and the creativity we will have around him I can see him adding good numbers here."Kelly joins a dressing room full of winners and Higgins is hoping his arrival can bring the club closer to their ultimate goal of winning the league title for the first time since 1997.

"If you look at the wide players we have at the club; Paul McMullan has won the Scottish Championship a few times, Michael Duffy has won it all here, Daniel has won it all, Brandon Kavanagh was a part of the Rovers team that won the league, so they've been around winning environments.

“That's what we need here. We've built the team over the last couple of years but now we need to take the next step and Daniel will help us in that cause."

With Paul McMullan making an immediate impact upon his arrival from Dundee last summer, Higgins certainly has strong options on the right wing now but where does he envisage Kelly fitting into the team?

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"He can play right across the front line. He's got electric pace and the big pitch here at Brandywell will really suit him with the creativity around him as well. He creates and scores goals so we're delighted.

"As I've spoken openly about, we want players who score goals and who have goal contributions and he certainly brings that. I've no doubt he will be a big hit here.

"When I first spoke to Daniel the really impressive things about a lot of the conversations that we had was his desire to win.

"He saw us in Europe and was impressed with what he saw. He saw the crowd we took to the Aviva last November and mentioned the crowd we took to Tallaght on a Thursday night for the European game and these things were really, really appealing to him. Large chunks of the conversation were about winning and his desire to win and that's what we want."

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Getting the deal done quickly in the off-season was key for all parties involved and Higgins believes that will also smooth Kelly's transition into the team when they report back for preseason on December 28th.

"Daniel knows a lot of the players here so he knows how people play, especially in attacking areas. He's played with Patching, he's played with Duffy, he's played with Patrick [McEleney] and knows the strengths of those players and they know his strengths as well.

"So I wouldn't envisage that there would be much work needed in terms of fitting him into how we play.

"We play in a way that suits him anyway. So I can't wait to get working with him. I know he's excited. We had competition for him from Dublin clubs and it would've been easy for him to move back to Dublin but he's come out of his comfort zone and he's committed his life to coming up here so I can't wait to get working with him.

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"He probably wanted a change in his life as well. Do something different, get out of Dublin and we've given him a platform to do it. He knows a lot of the lads here.

"So it's not as if he's coming into a dressing room full of strangers. I know from whenever the lads left Dundalk, they've stayed in regular touch and he's really good friends with a lot of them. He'll add a bit of character to the dressing room because he knows how to have a laugh as well.

"He's a really bubbly character and good fun but when he needs to be serious and get down to business he knows how to do that as well.”