His career with Munster began in 1997 and peaked nine years later when he played a vital role as the province secured their first Heineken Cup with a 23-19 win against Biarritz in Cardiff.
In more than 10 years at the province he played his part in some classic European performances as Munster emerged as a dominant force on the continent, perhaps most notably in 'the Miracle Match' against Gloucester - when Kelly scored two tries - he also started in two other Heineken Cup finals that ended with narrow defeats.
A year after his retirement, Kelly took up a role with Munster's Professional Game Committee. He is now Independent Chairman of the committee and is a firm believer in former players maintaining close links to the province in order for the Munster mentality to remain unchanged.
"I think former players have a lot to give, so it's very important to keep them involved. When I was starting out the older players were Peter Clohessy and Mick Galwey and just being involved with them early on was very important," he said.
"Plus, you had guys like Niall O'Donovan, who had played for Munster, Jerry Holland was involved as a manager and Colm Tucker was with the A side. Those guys embodied Munster and I looked up to them, they were giving something back.
"It's important that there's a link between the current team and the past players, making an effort to have that link in place so when the current players retire they have a network to fall back on," he added.
Kelly scored two tries against Connacht in his first appearance against them at The Sportsground in an interprovincial game in 1999 and rates tonight's opponents as a side with great potential.
"They certainly have a good crop of young players coming through now and Robbie Henshaw is potentially Ireland's replacement for Brian O'Driscoll, a very talented player.
"They have had a lot of misfortune over the last few years, maybe results not going their way at key times but I think Connacht could be a real threat if they pull it all together and get that consistency.
"They have guys like Johnny Muldoon that I would have played against and respected greatly because he was as hard as nails and he made life as difficult as possible for you."
Now 39, Kelly was not only a mainstay in the Munster side but he also boasts an impressive international record with eight tries in 17 Irish caps, four of which were earned at the 2003 World Cup in Australia.
After his playing career ended, Kelly re-trained as an accountant and is now a manager in the audit department of KPMG and he's delighted that he can use his business expertise to help the province off the field as the Independent Chairman of the Professional Game Committee.
"It's a very interesting role and it's something that I enjoy because you're working with the professional team still and you're trying to do your best to make things work so they have as much success on the pitch as possible.
"I wouldn't have a direct link to the team, it's more from the administration side. On a day-to-day basis I would be in touch with members of the committee including Garrett Fitzgerald (Munster Branch CEO), John Hartery (Munster Branch President) and Andrew Thompson, a former player as well, who has been co-opted onto the committee."
Seven years on from his retirement and John Kelly is still making a contribution to Munster Rugby. Along with his role on the Professional Game Committee he is a keen supporter and has attended all but one of Munster's home games this season.
Munster face Connacht at Thomond Park tonight at 7:15pm.
Tickets are still on sale from the mobile ticket office at Hassett's Cross and from the West Stand ticket booth from 5.15pm.
Ticket prices: Cat A Stand €40, Cat B Stand €30, Cat B Junior Stand €10, Terrace €20, Junior Terrace €7, Family Terrace Pack €40 (2 Adults and 2 Juniors). *Junior - Under 16 years