Derry hurling goalkeeper Seán Kelly credits Kevin Hinphey for getting his inter-county senior career off the ground.

Kelly has been one of the success stories of John McEvoy’s reign as Derry manager, having played every minute of the nine games this season.

His acrobatics on Saturday saw him make two saves that ensured Derry’s qualification for Saturday’s Christy Ring Cup semi-final.

After playing between the posts all during much of his underage career, Kevin Lynch’s senior manager Geoffrey McGonigle has deployed him outfield, for the first time since his U12 days.

But when the Derry season began it was his underage coach who persuaded him to put himself forward.

“Kevin Hinphey rung me up to get me out of bed and come to the trial and it kicked off from there.” Seán Kelly

“Kevin Hinphey rung me up to get me out of bed and come to the trial and it kicked off from there,” Kelly told the County Derry Post.

“He said ‘you can do nets for the county and outfield for the club’,” he recalls.

“We have a good club ‘keeper at the minute, BJ (Lagan), he is keeping it right and I am getting a chance to play outfield for the club.”

With Derry needing to avoid defeat by more than five points, Kelly’s performance on Saturday crucial.  The first intervention was purely instinctive, with Andy O’Brien right on top of him.  He had little time to react to deflect it onto the bar.

“It was a bit of luck,” Kelly stated of what he admitted was his best save of his career so far.  “It could’ve went into the net but it came off the crossbar.  It was just one of them days.

“Brian (Delargy – Derry selector) was saying if they won by six we were out, so with the two saves it made a difference even though we lost.”

Five minutes later when Wicklow were awarded a penalty Kelly’s heroics were called for again to deny Christopher Moorehouse.

“I had a bad run of penalties this year.  There were three and they all went into the back of the net.  Thank God I dived the right way today,” Kelly modestly stated of his full-length dive low to his right.”

Aside from the saves, Wicklow’s route one approach ensured Kelly needed to be switched on all through the game.  There was no time for ‘daydreaming’ as the visitors held a firm grip on the game.

The Derry netminder could do very little about Enda Donohue’s goal to extend Wicklow’s gap to four points but he felt his side had the chances to win the game.

“The shooting wasn’t there today,” he said.  “We had 20 wides and hopefully we can put 20 over next week.  Hopefully we can build on it next week and put that behind us but I don’t think we played too bad.

“We missed frees and on any other day Cormac (O’Doherty) would’ve put them over in his sleep.”

Richie Mullan then stepped into the role of free-taker and another of Kelly’s Ulster Club minor winning team-mates – Tiarnan McHugh – came on to play an important part in Derry’s attacking game.

It demonstrated John McEvoy’s faith in youth.

“John (McEvoy) he doesn’t care what age you are, if you are ready you are ready.  If they think you are good enough and the job is there, (they tell you to) take it on.”

Pic: Mary K Burke

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