Kelly praises professionals
Coach sees more to come from industrious Irish
By Elliot Ball. Last Updated: November 8, 2008 2:57pm
Ireland: Chance to make semis
Andy Kelly insists he has always believed that his Irish side could make an impact in the Rugby League World Cup.
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"There has been a lot of hard-working endeavour and, if can keep that ethos, there is no reason why we can't go further."
Andy Kelly Quotes of the week
Ireland have already surpassed expectations by topping a group that included star-studded Pacific Islanders Tonga and Samoa.
But Kelly, who celebrated his 48th birthday on Saturday, reckons his team still have a role to play in this year's tournament.
"I am as confident as when we arrived," Kelly said. "I've always believed in the ability of the squad.
"We have been very industrious - we never treated it as just a trip. There has been a lot of hard-working endeavour and, if can keep that ethos, there is no reason why we can't go further.
"I can't speak highly enough about the squad, in particular their work ethic and how receptive they have been."
Kelly now has the chance to emulate his younger brother Neil when Ireland lock horns with Fiji on Monday for a place in the World Cup semi-finals.
Neil Kelly threatened to help pull off one of the sport's biggest shocks, while assistant to Clive Griffiths, as he watched Wales lead Australia 20-8 in the 2000 semi-final at Huddersfield only to go down 46-22 in the second half.
The Kangaroos went on to retain their trophy eight years ago and, after looking in awesome form so far in this tournament, lie in wait for the winners of Monday's semi-final qualifier.
After being based in Parramatta for their group games, the Irish have trotted off to Queensland's Gold Coast to prepare for the showdown with Fiji.
Kelly admits he initially had mixed feelings about being based in Surfers Paradise but he has been impressed by the professionalism of his squad, which includes 13 players from Ireland's amateur domestic competition and the English National League.
"The Gold Coast has its own distractions but the lads are very responsible," he said.
"They've had a couple of days off to recover and they've been very sensible. They've been down to the beach and orchestrated things themselves like touch footy."
Wigan winger Pat Richards, who is the leading points-scorer of the World Cup so far, took a break from Ireland's preparations today to attend his brother Kieran's wedding.
The Irish points machine, who was man of the match in his side's epic 34-16 win over Samoa on Wednesday, was best man at the wedding, which coincidently took place on the Gold Coast.
"When all the dates were released, he always knew he would be released for the wedding," said Kelly.
"It's all planned so there is no problem with it. The players know the management are flexible. It's not a lock-down camp.
"The rest of us will be training and Pat will join us for our final session on Sunday.
"We were without Pat for the qualifying games due to an injury he picked up while playing for Wigan but thankfully he took the time to get the injury sorted out and he is back in fantastic form."
Kelly has added forwards Ged Corcoran and Mick Cassidy to the squad that was on duty against Samoa to cover for injury.
"We have played two physical games and we have a couple of people carrying knocks," he said.
"There maybe an opportunity for some people but I won't be changing things drastically. We've quite a good level of cohesion and consistency."
The only man definitely not in contention is former Leeds and Salford stand-off Graham Holroyd, who has struggled throughout the tournament to overcome a knee injury.
Fiji will await the outcome of a disciplinary hearing on Monday before finalising their side.
Iowane Divavesi has pleaded not guilty to a charge of tripping during Fiji's 18-16 defeat by Scotland on Wednesday and will face the judiciary 11 hours before kick-off.