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Seánie won't face faithful

SEANIE JOHNSTON will not be parachuted into the Kildare team for Sunday's Leinster quarter-final against Offaly - even if he receives the green light from Croke Park.

This was confirmed today by Kildare sources, who are planning for their championship opener on the basis that Johnston won't be playing - even if Central Council deem him to be eligible at a meeting this Saturday.

Vice-captain Eamonn Callaghan has also been ruled out of the equation with a groin injury, although he resumed jogging last night and will be ready for Kildare's next outing, be it a semi-final or qualifier.

The never-ending saga of Johnston's attempt to become an adopted Lilywhite has taken another dramatic twist with the news that county board chiefs have sought clarification on whether the Cavan native is eligible for Kildare without first playing club championship in the county.

The presumption was that Johnston would have to play a championship match for his new club, St Kevin's of Staplestown, before he could then tog out for Kieran McGeeney's county outfit. This was on the basis of a new rule passed at GAA's annual Congress last April.

However, Kildare are now querying whether this 'club before county' diktat applies to Johnston, since his transfer application was submitted before the new rule was passed.

Contacted this morning by the Evening Herald, Kildare county board secretary Kathleen O'Neill confirmed that she wrote to Croke Park earlier this week seeking clarity on what she termed a "grey area". "I need to establish what his status is," O'Neill explained. "If we play him and he is not eligible, obviously we lose the match and lose everything.

"I am doing this strictly as county secretary for my own information. Nobody asked me to look for it, only myself. No management team asked me to look for anything. I have submitted a query to Croke Park as to what his status is, in case I am asked by management - that I have it clear in my own mind."

Only last week, after some five months of trying, Johnston finally received clearance from the Central Competitions Control Committee to transfer club allegiance from his native Cavan Gaels to St Kevin's.

This followed an earlier successful appeal to the Central Appeals Committee, and Johnston duly made his club debut for Kevin's in a league match against Kilcock last Sunday, scoring five points in the process.

As matters stand, the second round of the Kildare SFC is unlikely to be played until after the Lilies complete their championship campaign, hence the significance of this weekend's Central Council meeting.

It has been mooted locally that Johnston could try and circumvent the obstacle of playing club championship in Kildare by featuring for Coill Dubh, a hurling club affiliated to St Kevin's.

But one source suggested: "It would be embarrassing for both Kildare and Croke Park if that is the route he has to go down."