KILDARE have been dealt a major blow with the news that star forward James Kavanagh has decided to quit the panel for "personal reasons".
Kavanagh (27) was nominated for an All Star in 2009 and 2010 and his decision to step away comes just ahead of their seasonal bow against Carlow IT in Newbridge on Sunday.
A Dublin-based garda, Kavanagh (pictured below) is in the process of building a house in Galway and his wife is expecting their first child.
Earlier this week, he informed Kieran McGeeney that he wouldn't be able to give the required commitment this year.
The development may open the door for Seanie Johnston to establish himself in the starting side following his transfer from Cavan last year, while veteran John Doyle has also committed himself for a 14th season.
Elsewhere, Kerry have moved their home NFL tie with Dublin from February 9 to Sunday, February 10.
The Kingdom were expected to host the game under the lights of Tralee's Austin Stack Park but will now welcome the Dubs to Killarney instead.
It is thought the move was made in case Kerry boss Eamonn Fitzmaurice and his Finuge team-mates reach the All-Ireland Intermediate Club final.
Fitzmaurice still lines out with his club and should they beat Monasterevin (Kildare) on January 27 at the Gaelic Grounds, they would be in action in the final on February 9.
Elsewhere, Fitzmaurice has named his first Kerry side for a competitive match since his appointment last year.
The Kingdom take on IT Tralee in Killarney tomorrow in their McGrath Cup opener and with the newly-appointed captain Eoin Brosnan not included, his Dr Crokes clubmate Johnny Buckley skippers the side for the day.
Buckley lines out at midfield alongside Kieran Donaghy, while the in-form Crokes attacker Brian Looney is named in the full-forward line alongside Patrick Curtin and Paul Geaney. Marc O Se starts at full-back while his brother Tomas is named on the bench.
New Meath boss Mick O'Dowd also takes charge in a competitive fixture for the first time when they visit Longford on Sunday.
The Royals are without Seamus Kenny, Stephen Bray and Shane McAnarney through injury. Eoghan Harrington will lead the side from centre-back in the absence of injured captain Kevin Reilly, while Joe Sheridan is named in the less familiar midfield role alongside Conor Gillespie.
All Star nominee Donal Keoghan starts at full-back alongside Davy Dalton, son of the former Kildare star of the same name.
Incoming Monaghan boss Malachy O'Rourke has named four new faces in his side to face St Mary's in their McKenna Cup opener.
Fintan Kelly, Stephen Smith, Paul McArdle and Padraig Donaghy are all handed their first starts.
Kerry (McGrath Cup SF v IT Tralee) – B Kelly; F Fitzgerald, M O Se, S Enright; J Lyne, J Sherwood, K Young; K Donaghy, J Buckley; M Geaney, D O'Sullivan, M O'Donoghue; B Looney, P Curtin, P Geaney.
Meath (O'Byrne Cup SF v Longford) – D Lyons; C Young, D Keoghan, D Dalton; C Rowe, E Harrington, S Crosbie; C Gillespie, J Sheridan; P Gilsenan, D Carroll, J Queeney; D McDonagh, P Byrne, M Newman.
Monaghan (McKenna Cup v St Mary's) – R Beggan; D Mone, F Kelly, K Duffy; M McElroy, D Hughes, C O'Connell; D Clerkin, N McAdam; S Smith, P McArdle, O Duffy; P Donaghy, C McManus, D Malone.