FOOTBALL: Cup Final Mania: It's Plane Sailing for Kelly & Derry; VETERAN DAVID'S DASH FOR GLORY
Byline: Michael Scully
DAVID Kelly will remember yesterday for many reasons, not just because it was the last game of his playing career.
What a way for the former international to bow out. Playing with Derry City might have seemed like an unlikely way for him to finish his career, but it has provided him with his first Cup medal.
After almost 20 years as a senior professional, it provided the fairytale ending to a satisfying career - even if he did miss a second-half sitter.
"I'm absolutely delighted, it's absolutely fantastic," he said afterwards.
"It's a good job, though, after that miss from eight yards - especially because I've been telling fellahs about hitting the target all week."
And yet it very nearly didn't happen.
Kelly couldn't have been in the best of spirits when he left his Midlands home to travel to Birmingham Airport for the 8.30am plane to Dublin to make the FAI Cup final.
Only the day before, the 36-year-old's new job as Tranmere Rovers' assistant manager got off to a bad, bad start. A 4-0 defeat to Cardiff City wasn't what he was hoping for.
Worse followed. The plane out of Birmingham was cancelled, and with the airline set to move the passengers to Manchester Airport by coach, Kelly set off on a frantic journey to Heathrow in his own car.
"I got there at 11.20, breaking a few speed rules along the way," he admitted ruefully.
Then another bombshell. A flight to Dublin had just left.
Then at last, a silver lining. "I was told it had been delayed until 12.35, so I got it," he said.
"We hit the ground in Dublin at a quarter to two, but we were kept on the runway until two.
"A Garda escort took me to the ground in 10 minutes. They were absolutely fantastic."
Enough time for him to do a warm-up and take his place up front alongside Liam Coyle.
Derry boss Kevin Mahon was asked about the goal. Scored not by a mortal in a number nine jersey, according to one adrenaline-fuelled reporter, but by God himself.
"Liam's been called worse things," shot back a contented Mahon, who can take a lot of satisfaction from this victory having previously guided City to League Cup success in 2000.
"People have been writing Liam off for the last two years, but he signed a new two-year contract this season and there's a lot more to come from him.
"We lost Gary Beckett before the game with medial ligament damage, and if he had been okay then David Kelly or Liam would have been on the bnch.
"Neither of them are young anymore, but they were very honest. David put in a tremendous amount of work".
When you talk about someone like Coyle, who picked up his third winners medal in three decades, the superlatives are always going to be good. …