Belfast Telegraph

'She's a gem': Glentoran legend Kelly Bailie urged to stay on after collecting record 30th trophy

Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

"If it's coming to an end..."

Kelly Bailie gives a thoughtful smile at the edge of the Windsor Park pitch as the lights begin to go out around her.

She's just lifted a landmark 30th trophy of her senior career as the 39-year-old helped Glentoran to a narrow 1-0 win over rivals Linfield to land the Electric Ireland Women's Irish Cup.

She's making sure to take in every aspect of the aftermath as 1,304 fans descended upon the National Football Stadium for the women's football calendar's biggest night of the year.

Because with the game on the up, Bailie knows she won't go on playing for long.

"At one stage it's all going to have to come to an end but if it's coming to an end with 30 trophies, I couldn't have asked for such a successful career," she says.

As her 23rd season with the club will draw to a close at Cliftonville tomorrow evening, Bailie admits she's considering calling it a day.

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But then it's not the first time the thought has crossed her mind.

Nor is it one her team-mates are going to allow to fester.

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Kelly collects the Irish Cup trophy for the fourth time back in 2009.

"We keep telling her every year that she can't leave us yet," laughs captain Jessica Foy. "Her performance on Saturday shows that she still has the legs to keep going and to lead us to push on. We'll try to keep her involved next year."

"She's a legend at the club. She's an unbelievable player. We say it year in, year out; for however many trophies she's lifted, she's still one of our best players. She's huge for our club with her leadership as well as her performances on the pitch. It's an unbelievable achievement not just for our club but for women's football in Northern Ireland."

Northern Ireland international Bailie has totted up eight goals so far this season, bagging the club's Player of the Month award for April in the process.

She's played a key part in the Glens' three-trophy campaign as they also landed the County Antrim Cup and the League Cup before Saturday's headline crown.

Those take her overall trophy tally to nine league titles, eight Irish Cup, 12 League Cups and two County Antrim Cups.

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It was number six in 2012 when Glentoran beat Crusaders 3-2 in the Irish Cup decider.

So how does it feel to reach the big 3-0?

"Amazing as always. If I look back at football, when I first started, I never thought this would be possible. The girls are brilliant and they have been for the last number of years. It's well within what they deserve as well and I'm just happy for everybody although it is extra special to me.

"Off the back of last year, when we won it and it was very dramatic, we knew it was going to be very tough. We knew we would have to dig in. Part of me wondered, if this is going to be the final year is it going to end badly?

"But the girls worked so hard once again. You always have to grind it out against Linfield but the hard work came out above anything else on the pitch. I'm just glad for all the girls."

"At the start of my career, I was just glad to be playing football to be honest. After a couple of years, we won our first trophy and then you get a hunger for it. To be fair Cheryl (Lamont) and Maura (Muldoon) built the club from the bottom up and it's continued on. It's been just brilliant for the 23 years that I've been involved.

"I think it's the core of the club is all about dedication, hard work and commitment. When you look at it, hard work comes first. We're always attracting players that are talented but without the hard work, success wouldn't be possible and that speaks volumes of the club that has been built on those morals."

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Kelly Bailie in action during the 2018 Irish Cup final, when Makyla Mulholland headed in two late goals to seal a 2-1 win over Linfield for the Glens.

It was recent signing Emma McMaster - little over half Bailie's age - who struck to deliver number 30, her early goal enough to separate the sides thanks a dogged defensive display.

But even though she has only been at the club a matter of weeks, it hasn't taken long to notice Bailie's true influence.

"Unbelievable," she says of her team-mate, her face lighting up with enthusiasm. "She is a gem of a human being. She's just one of those people - a leader who everybody looks up to and a player that everybody loves to play alongside."

McMaster, Foy and, you can bet, the rest of the Glentoran dressing room are going to make sure they hold on to the most successful women's player in Irish League history.

If they have their way, Bailie's lustrous career isn't coming to an end just yet.

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Glentoran legend Kelly Bailie has won the Women's Irish Cup eight times.

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