Kieran Donnelly has learned a lot from his father.
Now he might have surpassed him. But he doesn’t see it as a competition, and he’s quick to point out he’s had a lot of help to get where he is today.
Donnelly is a senior at Roman Catholic High School and one of the best soccer players in the state. It’s why the defender was named to the All-State team on Tuesday night.
But instead of celebrating his accomplishments, he’s too busy talking about those who helped him get to that point. And one of those people is dear old dad.
“I play the same position as him, and he was a great soccer player,” Donnelly said of his father, Chad, a 2000 graduate of North Catholic. “He told me a lot of things, he played for (Coach Jerry Brindisi, former North coach and now a Roman assistant) and told me how much fun it is playing for him and how much you can learn from him. And my dad taught me so much.
“My dad didn’t make All-State, but he was All-Catholic and a great player. He had a great soccer career, and I learned a lot from him. I learned a lot from a lot of people. That’s where I got a lot of what made me All-State.”
Making All-State is a massive accomplishment. Making it means you’re one of the best at your position in the state of Pennsylvania, and Donnelly knows it’s a huge honor. But he’s willing to share the glory. He’d also trade it for something his dad got at North.
“All-State is great, but my dad won a Catholic League championship, and that’s a team award, so I really wish I got that one this year,” said Donnelly, who helped Roman get to the Catholic League title game in each of his final three years, but fell just short each time. “But making All-State isn’t just for me. I think I got it because I’m a part of a great team. I’ve had great coaching and great players around me. I just go out and play.”
He does and he does a great job.
During his time at Roman, he’s been one of the top shutdown defenders in the area.
This year, he showed flashes of brilliance at the offensive end, scoring eight goals and contributing four assists, but at the same time he was just as strong on defense, helping the Cahillites rack up 13 shutouts. While he played a huge role in them, he’s not ready to take credit for them.
“Our entire defense was very good, and we have a great goalie,” Donnelly said. “I think our defense was a big part of our success. The other thing that made us so good was our coaching. We have really good coaches who help us. They put us in the right position, and we just do what they teach us and get better.”
Donnelly has improved a great deal since he started playing soccer when he was 4. When he started, like most kids, he wasn’t great. But he never stopped loving the game and eventually, he put it all together.
“I think I started to get good when I was 12,” the Port Richmond native said. “That was when I started being one of the better players. I think the thing that makes me better is I’m a good leader, I try to set an example and help my teammates. I think that’s the best thing I do. I want to be a good leader and captain.
“The other thing is I try to give it my all. Hard work really can make you a better player. I try to work hard every day, not take days off. I give effort when I’m playing and I think that can make you a better player.”
According to Donnelly, giving it your all isn’t something unique to him on the Cahillites. This year, the Cahillites were once again on the brink of bringing home a Catholic League championship, and while he’s disappointed it didn’t work out, he’s proud of how far they did get. Roman lost to La Salle in penalty kicks after playing to a 1-1 tie in the finals.
“We had a successful season, it just wasn’t as successful as we wanted it to be,” Donnelly said. “I know how big a Catholic League championship is. My dad won one and he told me how great it feels. I wish we could have gotten one, but I’m really proud of what we accomplished.”
Donnelly’s accomplishments go beyond the soccer field.
He maintains a 3.7 grade point average, and is in the National Honor Society.
He also takes part in leadership conferences at the school, and represents the school during many leadership events.
Next year, he wants to play soccer in college. He’s unsure where, and he’s unsure what he’ll study. His favorite subject is psychology, so perhaps he’ll go in that direction.
But he knows he’s thankful for everything Roman gave him.
“I think if North was still open, I’d definitely have been a Norfer because everyone in my family went there,” Donnelly said. “But Roman is great. It’s the new North. I love playing for Roman, all of my teammates, coaches and teachers. It’s a great school.
“I’m proud to be All-State and I’m proud of everything we’ve done at Roman. It’s worked out great for me.”