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Veteran Sean Kelly still key for St Galls

While many Antrim players anxiously ponder whether or not they will make themselves available for the county squad when a new manager is confirmed, Sean Kelly glides serenely along unfazed by the sense of anticipation, tension and even controversy that hangs in the air.

Since Frank Dawson dropped his 'I quit' bombshell, uncertainty, turmoil even, has prevailed as the frantic search for his replacement continues.

But Kelly, who at 32 enjoyed an Indian summer under Dawson, is only too pleased that he has more important matters to address.

When St Galls won the Antrim, Ulster and All Ireland club titles three years ago, Kelly was at the core of their defensive strategy.

Today he is wearing the No 6 shirt as a pivotal figure in a defence which tends to concede little and which he hopes will become even more frugal when battle commences against Glenswilly in the Ulster club championship on Sunday.

Veteran Kelly will head to Ballybofey with his St Galls colleagues anxious to further underline that, while the passage of time might have forced him to perhaps concede a yard of pace, it has sharpened his ability to read games and exhibit the calming influence for which he is now renowned.

The past year spent under Dawson's command was merely a rekindling of his love-affair with the Saffrons which started in 2001 and blossomed until he took a year out in 2009 before returning in 2010 only to exit stage left again when Kildare downed the Saffrons in the All Ireland qualifiers.

But if Antrim honours eluded him, then all the time he was quietly stockpiling county championship gongs as St Galls powered to 12 of the last 13 titles on offer.

If St Galls need an extra incentive to come good on Sunday, then a flashback to the scoreline in their Ulster semi-final against Kilcoo last year will surely provide the impetus for a regal show of character.

"We lost that game by two points (1-9 to 0-10) and we were gutted afterwards," recalls Kelly. "This year's Ulster club line-up is maybe the strongest there has been for some time so we know what we have to do. We have experience and pride in abundance but it's important that we get things right in Ballybofey on Sunday."

While last month's record-equalling seventh consecutive Antrim title was welcome, it will pale into insignificance compared to any success which can be attained on the provincial stage.

And St Galls officials are convinced that no one is better equipped to provide the drive for glory than the dependable Kelly.

Belfast Telegraph

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