Michael Kelly has come to Carlisle United mainly to keep the ball out of the net. He is aware, though, that the occasional Blues goalkeeper has done okay at the other end, too.

Asked how much he knew about the club before signing, he says: “In total honesty, I knew about the Jimmy Glass goal. And they’re big boots to fill!

“I only knew because I heard Undr The Cosh – I listened to an interview with [Glass] himself.

“Obviously Roddy Collins has been the manager here as well. There’s quite a famous viral video of Roddy talking about the cup final from that time period.

“I didn’t know a whole lot. But I knew a bit.”

News and Star: Roddy Collins (photo: PA)Roddy Collins (photo: PA)

Kelly is quickly getting up to speed on the rest of the Blues now he is on their goalkeeping books. After training with the squad last week, he signed a one-year deal ahead of the opening game of the season.

United paid Bray Wanderers a small fee to secure 26-year-old Kelly’s services. He is now tasked with pushing Tomas Holy for the No1 position at Brunton Park.

“I was just going about my business with Bray, trying to do my best for them,” he says. “I had an agreement with [Bray boss] Pat Devlin and he stuck by it – I owe him a lot. He said if I had the opportunity of full-time football I would be allowed to pursue it.

“Then obviously there’s the added bonus that it came in the UK at a really good club. Basically, I think Gez [United goalkeeping coach Paul Gerrard] and the gaffer [Paul Simpson] identified what they wanted and they’ve got it.

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“It came out of the blue for me. I was very focused on Bray in terms of trying to finish our season strong, but I’m delighted that I got the call.”

Kelly’s football journey has so far unfolded in Ireland, the keeper playing for local sides, then progressing via Dunboyne to Shamrock Rovers, where he graduated from the Under-19s to the first-team squad. Spells at Cabinteely, Longford Town and Bray followed.

Now he crosses the water hoping to make an impact in the English game. “Coming into a full-time set-up would have been ideal anyway, even if it was in Ireland. But the UK’s always been a place I wanted to play – it’s been a dream of mine,” he says.

News and Star: Paul Simpson handed Kelly a one-year deal (photo: Amy Nixon)Paul Simpson handed Kelly a one-year deal (photo: Amy Nixon)

“To get the opportunity to come in, challenge for a spot, to be the No1 in a Football League club, was a no-brainer. I couldn’t say no at all.”

At the weekend, manager Simpson credited Kelly for his determination to seize his chance at Carlisle. He said the keeper paid for his own flight and car hire in order to train with the squad, and hopefully impress the manager and his staff.

This was indeed the case, though Kelly does not particularly feel it is deserving of high praise. “I’ve never played in the big schoolboy teams at home, I never had the big name; I’ve just worked and grafted behind the scenes, and I’ve got rewards for that along the way, so why would I change now?” he says.

“I wanted to come here, I wanted to play full-time football, and the staff and the players – they’re all dedicated in their own ways. Just because I paid for a flight or a car doesn’t mean I’m any different.

“I’m just part of the cog and hopefully it will breed a good season. Every one of the people in this building are the exact same. I just think it helped me bed in a little bit more.”

The week of training before signing a deal was vital for all parties, Kelly says. “I think with training and stuff like that it’s important for managers and players and people like that to see the personality of someone, particularly someone who’s playing in Ireland,” he says.

News and Star: Untied goalkeeping coach Paul Gerrard (photo: Barbara Abbott)Untied goalkeeping coach Paul Gerrard (photo: Barbara Abbott)

“There’s any amount of video on my previous games, and I think he [Simpson] spoke to people about me anyway, but personality-wise it’s a very select group here – and it’s a really good group – so I don’t think anyone with the wrong personality would fit in.

“I think that was a big part with the gaffer and Gez. I enjoyed last week and now I’m going to enjoy the season, and hopefully beyond.”

Another thing Simpson said was that the deal awarded to Kelly was not particularly great for the player himself, but an incentive for the keeper to earn something better. Again, he appears totally comfortable with that.

“If I don’t back myself, there’s no reason for anyone else to – there’s no reason for the gaffer to have any confidence in me,” he says.

“I think a lot of people in this league are going to be on similar deals – relative unknowns like myself. I have to go and prove what I can do. Like he [Simpson] said, I have to go and show I can cope with English football.

“He could have put any number on [the contract], any amount of time, and I probably would have said yes. It’s up to me to go and make the most of it now.”

Kelly was delighted to be straight into the mix for Saturday’s 1-0 win over Crawley, where he was substitute. It capped a hectic period of getting himself back and forth from Ireland, and sealing the deal with United.

“At the end of it, it was very quick. I think it just had to get sped up a little bit with international clearance and stuff like that. That came through double-quick.

“I was just happy to be in the squad for the first game of the season and got to experience Brunton Park for the first time. I didn’t really want to miss that. It was unreal – it was brilliant. I got a nice, warm welcome off the fans, and got to experience it at one of the old-school Football League grounds.”

On the training ground, Kelly is relishing the full-time work he is putting in under the eyes of Gerrard and Simpson, as well as the new dynamic with first-choice keeper Holy.

“I think we all come from the same kind of spot in terms of standards, wanting to do everything 100 per cent right,” he says. “Gez is fantastic, I love working with Gez, and my first week working with Tomas has been really good – passing on information, bouncing off each other, everything’s open for discussion.

News and Star: Kelly says he loved experiencing Brunton Park for the first time on Saturday (photo: Barbara Abbott)Kelly says he loved experiencing Brunton Park for the first time on Saturday (photo: Barbara Abbott)

“The gaffer is very fair, very direct. He doesn’t mess you around, and I think he’s been very up front in terms of, ‘It is Tomas’s shirt, and if he wants it he has to go and get it’.

“I know exactly where I lie, I’ve no issue with that and know exactly what I have to do.”

In terms of Carlisle and United itself, Kelly says he feels at home already. “I’m loving it. The facilities are unbelievable, the people around the place are really good, even the people around the town – I’ve had to sort a few things there on Sunday.

“I’m loving it. The area’s really nice. I’m just really looking forward to it now.

“I think it’s a really well-run club, it’s very fair, I think all the people are very genuine. I think it’s a really good group and I don’t just mean players, I mean staff, wash ladies, everyone.

“Everyone is really nice and welcoming. It’s like one big family. I know it sounds a cliché but you get it very few times in football.”

Kelly, pretty soon, will have to further bed himself into the “family” through the traditional new-signing ritual of performing a song for his team-mates. If the long haul to Colchester this weekend gives him time to warm up for that, he says it might have to be “something by Justin Bieber…something with a nice chorus…”

And what if, one day, he needs to be on song in the opposition box, like a certain United goalkeeping predecessor? “Oh I can do a job anywhere the gaffer needs me to do it,” he smiles. “I’ve got a big enough head, I can put it on the end of things…”