The praise comes from Irish U21 boss Don Givens who has named 'Steo' in the starting line-up as the Republic open their European U21 Championship qualifying against Cyprus in Kilkenny.
Stephen, captain of the side, was injured for Ireland's last outing against Bulgaria but has returned to fitness after damaging ankle ligaments in the friendly against Hull City on July 24.
He is the only change to a side unbeaten in 12 matches - an Irish record - and attempting to qualify for the European finals for the first time.
"It’s a vote of confidence for the lads that have done so well in the last couple of games," said Givens. "Stephen Kelly missed the Bulgaria game but has been outstanding in all the other games while the majority of the lads did well in that game and also against Scotland in May."
Stephen's group also won the prestigious Madeira tournament in February — Ireland’s only tournament victory at this level — and they are the only ever Irish side to qualify for the the UEFA Under 16 and Under 19 Championships as well as the World Youth Championships.
Stephen Kelly has been labelled 'outstanding' as he steps straight back into Ireland Under-21's record-breaking team tonight.