A former Canary right-back, who won five Irish caps, Phil Kelly, has died aged 73 after a long illness at his home near Norwich.

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After injury cut short his career at Carrow Road, where the 27-year-old had made a total of 134 appearances, he became a successful player manager at clubs including Lowestoft, Newmarket, Thetford and finally Reepham.

The Irish international defender, who had actually been signed for the Republic of Ireland in the West Bromwich Albion dressing room, started his football career playing as an amateur with Birmingham City.

He joined Wolverhampton Wanderers on September 14, 1957 and won his first international colours at Molineux, playing five times between 1960 and 1961. He recalled that his league debut against Bolton was memorable because he pulled down the legendary skipper, the late Nat Lofthouse in the area, giving away a penalty, which earned Bolton a 2-2 draw.

He signed for City on August 9, 1962, making his first appearance three weeks later on September 12. For Norwich, he made 114 league appearances, scoring two goals, played seven times in the FA Cup and appeared 13 times in the League Cup, scoring once.

In the side, he was a first-team regular and a consistent partner to Mullett, Thurlow and Staton until his final appearance on December 10, 1966 after a serious knee injury. He played once in goal after Keelan was sent off against Northampton Town but didn’t let in a goal that day in a city side, which featured 1,414 appearances between the club’s players.

James Philip Vincent Kelly, always known as Phil, was born in Dublin on July 10, 1939. He was eight years old when his parents moved to Birmingham, where he went to several local schools.

After his top-flight career ended, he moved to Lowestoft Town, as player coach between 1967 and June 1969 in the Eastern Counties League, and then later at Newmarket Town. After taking over from Dick Scott in January 1971, his 16-month spell as player manager at Thetford Town to May 1972 was one of the most successful for the Mundford Road club as it finished fifth – the highest ever position in the ECL.

Later, after remotivating Reepham Town in the Anglian Combination, he returned to Thetford as manager in 1974.

He took to the field with the oval ball, playing for Holt Rugby Football Club, and captained the Owls in the 1980 season, with a great friend and vice captain, the late Trevor Childs. In 1989, he was a founder member and wicketkeeper of Norfolk’s Black Sheep Cricket Charity, which has raised more than £50,000 for local children’s charities over the years.

A keen golf player, after an operation to replace a knee joint, he assisted David Brooks at Caldecott Hall Golf Club.

He leaves a partner, Sally and is survived by Bernard, one of his three brothers. He had three daughters, Nicola, Tara and Sara, and seven grandchildren.

A funeral Mass will be held at the Cathedral of St John the Baptist on Thursday, August 30 at 10am.

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