Ireland’s top (sustainable development) goal scorer
When he’s not finding the back of the net for The Bohs, the 25-year-old dedicates most of his time to becoming a sustainable finance leader, alongside his classmates at UCD Smurfit School. This year, the talented athlete was among 19 postgraduate students from nine countries to join Ireland’s leading global business school’s MSc in Renewable Energy and Environmental Finance (REEF).
Open to graduates of various disciplines from Business, Economics and Finance to Engineering, Mathematics, Environmental Science and Physics, the one year full-time or two-year part-time course equips participants with the skills and experience they need to pursue a leadership career in the rapidly-developing global energy and environmental industry.
“I had taken a year out after my undergrad to become settled on which area of business I wanted to specialise in. I decided I wanted to go down the route of finance,” the County Donegal native explains.
“When I came across the REEF masters, I knew it was perfect. It had the core elements of a finance masters with the added niche of insight into the renewables industry.”
Shooting for goals, at home and away
Although the Bohemians FC goal machine doesn’t have any immediate plans to hang up his boots, he says he now has a different kind of goal in mind when he completes his part-time studies.
“I hope to continue playing soccer for the next few years while getting some experience in the renewable energy sector.”
“The MSc has given me a real insight into the industry with a clear focus on the financial aspects. It’s provided me with an understanding of the key role finance can play in the fight against climate change and how through strong economic policy, we can make a real impact.”
He also explains how exposure to leading thinkers and industry experts through the course, in particular, has triggered an interest in a financial innovation.
“One module, Green Data Science, run by Lecturer Theodor Cojoianu, gave a fascinating look into the role blockchain and AI can play in solving sustainable development issues. We also dived into the world of Impact investing with Sustainable Finance and Responsible Investing Entrepreneur Laura Heuston, another rapidly growing segment in the world of investing.”
Building back greener
Sustainable development is crucial to combating global challenges, such as the climate crisis. Still, despite drawing growing international focus at a time when the world looks to build back greener after the coronavirus pandemic – most notably during the recent 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Scotland – a lack of public and private sector investment continues to impede progress. The United Nations estimates the world needs to invest $5-7 trillion annually to achieve its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. A $2.5 trillion annual investment gap in the developing world is a critical obstacle to achieving the SDGs. Still, it also creates an opportunity for policymakers, investors and businesses.
In line with the SDGs, UCD Smurfit School’s MSc REEF focuses on developing participants’ analytical capabilities to consider sustainability in the context of financial markets and find solutions to complex problems. Kelly believes its low carbon energy emphasis will be particularly relevant to sustainable development back at home.
“By the middle of this decade, I would hope Ireland will have a thriving renewables industry with a focus on off-shore wind and green hydrogen generation. It will take a massive investment in infrastructure, but I’ve no doubt this country is capable of becoming a world leader in clean energy generation.”
Leadership on and off the pitch
The Bohs forward says he wants to take the leadership lessons he’s learned in the high-stakes arena of professional soccer through his studies to achieve his future career ambitions.
“The most transferable learning tool from high-level sport is understanding the strength of close relationships and bonds between team members. Emotionally understanding and building connections with teammates empowers the group to deal with adversity and overcome high-pressure situations.”
Kelly acknowledges balancing life as an elite sportsperson, and a part-time student isn’t without its challenges.
“This summer, we went on a crazy run in the European competition. We played teams from Luxembourg, Iceland and Greece throughout July and August. That caused some schedule disruption,” he laughs. “But I managed to get through it.”
Nonetheless, he’s looking forward to the hard work paying off when he finishes his studies in August 2022. He’s also certain that UCD Smurfit School’s life-changing student experience and outstanding business education is the ideal springboard for his career in soccer and beyond.
“UCD Smurfit School’s values of authenticity, bravery and openness are a crucial part of this programme, and I know the experience I gain here is going to allow me to have an impact off the pitch, as well as on it.”
This article was written by Derek Main, freelance writer/freelance journalist.