Kilmarnock’s joy at winning the Scottish Communities League Cup final on Sunday turned to tragedy within moments of the final whistle when the father of midfielder Liam Kelly suffered a suspected heart attack in a Hampden Park stand and died.
Kelly, who started his career as an Apprentice at MK Dons, was told the news as he and his team-mates were celebrating a 1-0 win over Celtic on the Hampden pitch.
He was visibly distraught before being moved away from the scene as paramedics treated his father.
The rest of the Kilmarnock players lifted the trophy oblivious to the unfolding tragedy but Manager Kenny Shiels was aware of the situation and looked on in serious concern.
Kelly rushed to the nearby hospital where his father was taken but he died shortly afterwards.
The rest of the players were told the news of the death as they toured the Ayrshire town on an open-top bus and Strathclyde Police confirmed Mr Kelly had died.
“You are going from jubilation to remorse and, when you combine those two emotions, remorse is always going to come out on top,” Shiels told the Daily Record.
“The cup final success has been overshadowed by something that is far more important than football. The players did not know Liam’s father had passed away until late on Sunday evening.”
“We didn’t break the news to them until later so they could try to enjoy the parade. It was tough for them to deal with.”
Shiels met 22-year-old Kelly yesterday and promised the Club will do everything they can to help him. But Kenny, who lost his brother during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, knows it will be difficult.
He said: “It is very sad. I spoke to Liam this morning and he is distraught, of course he is. It is going to be hard for him. He’s only a young boy.”
“Apart from feeling for Liam and his family, we wanted to enjoy the achievement and we did that with the trip around the town last night, but it was tinged with sadness.”
“Losing his father in those circumstances is almost impossible to comprehend. The fact it is played out in the public eye also makes it harder to deal with.”
“What we have to do now is provide him with support. Normally when you lose a loved one, it is because of a tragic accident or an illness and your emotions are balanced.”
“Liam was in a euphoric state when it happened and he has had to come down from a huge height in a rapid time. He has gone from high positive energy to low positive energy. It must be the most traumatic feeling.”
“Given time, he’ll realise that his dad was there to see him win the cup. The problem, though, is that the memory of his greatest day will always have that cloud over it.”
Kelly missed out on collecting his winner’s medal as he attended his stricken father and, while the rest of his team-mates were doing a lap of honour, he was accompanying him in the ambulance, still wearing his Kilmarnock strip.
Kenny will now allow Liam to go through the grieving process.
Kenny said: “I have been trying to create a family bond at Kilmarnock and Liam is one of that family.”
“The feelings of concern for Liam are extremely high among the players. In football, everybody supports each other and it is important we provide the proper pastoral care for Liam and his family.”
“Liam has been deprived of his father, he has been deprived of walking up for his medal and he has been deprived of a lap of honour with his team-mates.”
“I know what it is like to lose someone close in tragic circumstances and if he needs to talk then I will always be at the other end of the phone.”
In a recent interview, Liam told how Jack was a Celtic fan and their family were Hoops fans.
Yesterday, Celtic manager Neil Lennon said his team were “shocked and saddened” at Jack’s death.
He told the Celtic website: “All of the management team, players and backroom staff wish to offer our thoughts and prayers to Liam Kelly’s family.”
Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell added: “Everyone is devastated by this terrible news. All at the Football Club are thinking about Liam and his family at this sad time.”