Another setback for Leesiders as calf injury derails Kelly
AN injury setback three weeks ago looks set to keep roving Cork forward Paddy Kelly out of action until the Munster Football Championship.
Tearing a calf muscle three weeks into his comeback, just when he was on the verge of returning to football for the first time since hip surgery last November, was deeply frustrating.
But any self-pity he had allowed himself recently was firmly knocked on the head by Colm O'Neill's third serious cruciate injury last weekend.
"What a wake-up call for me," Kelly confessed this week, reflecting on his unfortunate team-mate's horrendous run of bad luck.
"It's devastating, not just for the team, but especially for Colm himself to have to face such a long recovery again. It definitely gave me some perspective."
A third-class primary school teacher in Inniscarra, next door to his native Ballincollig, Kelly (right) was much more in control of his own injury destiny in the past six months.
Blessed with the physique and battery of a long-distance runner, his indefatigable running game has been one of the unheralded cogs of Conor Counihan's team, but they've had to soldier without him all season.
Tomorrow he faces another frustrating afternoon, watching them take on the old enemy again in Tralee and it was against Kerry last summer that Kelly first felt a problem.
"All of a sudden I felt a pinch in my groin," he explained of the injury that ruled him out of the Munster final.
He came off the bench subsequently against Kildare, yet while he started in the All-Ireland semi-final against Donegal, the problem had returned.
After consulting with IRFU team doctor and groin expert Eanna Falvey, he discovered the pain was due to a slight hip abnormality – excess growth in his femoral (thigh) bone.
The long-term solution was to opt for the sort of off-season surgery which Donegal's Karl Lacey and, most recently, former Cork team-mate Derek Kavanagh and current county hurler Jamie Coughlan, have also had.
His rehab was going perfectly until he tore his calf three weeks ago.
"I might be fully fit if we got all the way to the league final, but I wouldn't have much football played, so probably wouldn't be thrown into that sort of a game," Kelly admits candidly.
"Our club championship begins at the start of May, so that's my aim now and I'll see how I progress in the meantime."
Kerry may finally have emerged from their slump against Down last week, but he reckons Cork's victory against Donegal was equally pivotal for them ahead of another Munster 'old firm' derby.
"Everyone in the table still has something to play for, so there's certainly no such thing as 'home bankers' in this league over the next few weeks."