Ray Kenny An Uncompromising defender

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Ray in action during the 2002 First Division Cup Final

Ray Kenny, is another graduate from the St Joseph’s Boys club in Sallynoggin in Dublin.  Like Alan Young (who was a couple of years younger than him) and James Mulligan, the former Harps striker in Cork City’s squad for tonight’s game (who played on the same side as him from U-15 level), Ray played his schoolboy soccer with “Joey’s”.  Ray reveals that up until the age of thirteen he actually played in the forward line, “however, I was moved back into midfield and then further back to right back, where I have stayed since.”  Other players to have come from that team to play Eircom League football are Matt Britton and Keith Long, both of whom nearly signed for Harps when Dermot Keely was manager.

When Ray’s schoolboy days ended he moved onto another Dun Laoghaire based club T.E.K. United (who Harps had their first ever FAI Cup win against in the 1970/71 season) for two years in the Leinster Senior League, before being asked by Pat Devlin if he was interested in signing for Bray Wanderers.  Ray was delighted to sign and stayed there for five seasons.

When speaking of his highlight as a “Seagull”, Ray sheepishly admits it was the 1999 FAI Cup Final win over Finn Harps.  “It was the first game I had started in nearly six months.  I had suffered from a viral complaint from November until the end of February.  I had only been back six weeks and had a number of run outs as substitute, so I was surprised to get the starting spot, but it was great to win it after the three games.”  Other honours garned during  his time at the Carlisle Grounds  included the First Division Title and Shield in 1996, and a  runners up spot to Waterford United two years later.

After the FAI Cup final, Ray restarted the season with Bray Wanderers but halfway through the season, he was offered a place with the Wicklow Fire Brigade.  It had one draw back, a six month training programme, which if the new recruit was injured or sick for more than one week, they would not have be taken on as a Fire Brigade Officer. Ray was also suffering from a nagging injury at the time and went to Pat Devlin with his decision to pack it in.  “Devlin was happy enough with the decision as Bray were training three or four nights a week and it was getting to be a real struggle to make it into their first team.”

The following season after completing his fire brigade training Ray decided he would go back to the Leinster Senior League side T.E.K. and play for fun.  However, Sean Murray, who was friendly with Ray persuaded him to sign for Pat Byrne at Kilkenny City.  Byrne was great and sympathetically  agreed that due to the shift work that Ray was required to work, he wouldn’t have to turn up to training provided he was doing it on his own.

This caused some animosity with Pat Devlin and Bray Wanderers, who insisted they held Ray’s League registration and wanted a transfer fee paid for him.  However, Kilkenny stuck by their guns and as Ray was free agent and free to sign for whoever he wanted so the Cats got their man on a free transfer.

Unfortunately for Ray, Byrne only lasted six games, and Joe McGrath when he came in decided he had no need of the right back, so mid season he was on the move, and some three seasons later the Dubliner is still with Finn Harps.

“Gavin Dykes, came in for me and persuaded me to sign for Harps.  The deal saw Graham O’Hanlon who had only been at Harps a couple of months move south  in a swop deal.  I have never looked back from there and looking back now it is the best decision I have ever made, even more so than signing for Bray.  I can honestly say I never had a problem with Gavin and wouldn’t have a bad word to say against him.”

Looking at the highlights of his time at Harps he has a number of games that spring readily to his memory.  “The two four-one wins against St Pats in Inchicore and Bray in Ballybofey during the season we got relegated were very enjoyable, as was the Cup win over Shelbourne last season.  However, reaching the First Division Cup Final, also rates very high.  All the others say it doesn’t matter, it is only a small competition, but for those involved in it, it is very important, after all it is a National Cup Competition.  The Cup wins are really for the fans and when you win the League that is for the players.”

Ray goes on “However, it will all count for nothing if we don’t win promotion this season.  It was heartbreaking to get so close last season and we have to ensure that we don’t slip up this season.”

When asked if he ever had any opponents that he dislikes playing against he instantly names “Paddy McGrenaghan, he is the most awkward man to get off the ball.  He is so strong it is almost impossible to knock him off the ball.”  Also Jonathan Minnock, who he regards as the best left back in the country, and then adds laughingly “and not just because the two of them are team mates.”  Former Shelbourne and now Bohemians winger Mark Rutherford is another because of his sheer pace.

Ray being the only man not North-West based, does his training on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s with Glenmore Celtic, another Leinster League side who are coached by ex-Waterford United man Joe Reynolds and he is grateful for the facilities they provide.  He also likes to get gym work done at least once a week.

Ray travels up and down for every home game with Letterkenny man Peter Furlong who is based in the capital.  “I like to get home as early as possible after games, especially now that I am married.”  Ray got married last October, to his childhood sweetheart Ann-Marie when they went to Rome.

Ray is perfectly happy with Harps and although his former travelling companions Fergal Harkin, Don Tierney and Alan Dodd have all left the club, he doesn’t mind the travelling and is enjoying his time at the Donegal club.  “I only hope now that we can repay the fans who have been great for us, by winning a few trophies.”

From an interview with Bartley Ramsay in September 2003.  Ray later played for Kildare County, Bray Wanderers and Longford Town before retiring at the end of the 2009 season.

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