How I found a football club at last

Rory kelly after signing with Finn Harps. © Johnny Craig/Twitter

Rory Kelly after signing with Finn Harps. © Johnny Craig/Twitter

So after a busy start to the New Year, and after the disappointment of not earning a professional contract with a League One club, I can finally say that #roryfoundaclub.

Having been selected for the final of the Samsung Win-a-Pro Contract competition prior to Christmas, I spent a lot of my time over the festive period preparing myself for the ‘big match’.

It was not that I was preparing myself physically for the game, it was more mentally. I do not doubt my ability as a goalkeeper. At this stage, I know what I can do and what I can’t do, and know which areas I need to improve. This was a matter of mental preparation.

Over Christmas, I got ahead of myself and began thinking things like ‘What if I do win this contract?’ What would I do with my university work? How could I manage to do both? When would I move to Swindon or London?

Ultimately, I didn’t have to think about these any further after the final.

Personally, I felt that I had put in a good performance, and thought that I had to be in with a shout. Sadly, this wasn’t the case. On my return home, I was met with the harsh reality that I was once again a free agent, and without a club.

Rory Kelly poses for #findroryaclub.

Rory Kelly poses for #findroryaclub.

Not having a club is one of the worst things that can happen to any footballer, whether it’s at a lower level or at the top. For me, I had been in this position before so I knew what it was about.

Making light-heart out of my situation led to #findroryaclub, something that would boost my profile as a footballer and an avid ‘Tweeter’.

What started as a joke between myself and fellow trainee journalists Eoghain McKane and Derek Walsh, ended with me signing a one-year contract with an Irish club. #findroryaclub reached places as far as Australia and America, and I was bombarded with tweets including ones of people holding signs saying the phrase.

It was insane.

About a week after the Twitter storm, I was invited to train with Finn Harps, a club I had previously played for. Having had discussions with the manager, he made it clear that he wanted to sign me, and on Deadline Day, I put pen-to-paper on a one-year contract.

Harps play in the League of Ireland First Division, and are a club steeped in history. Having played for their fiercest rivals Derry City in the past, it’s fair to say that I’ve really crossed the divide.

With the season set to start in March, I have been given the first few weeks off to complete my degree. It is my own responsibility to be in a position to fight for a place in the starting eleven by the time I get home, so really, the next few months is when the hard work really kicks in, both on and off the pitch.