KILDARE footballers' disastrous knee injury jinx has struck again.
It is feared that All Star corner-back Peter Kelly is their latest player to suffer a dreaded cruciate knee ligament injury.
Kelly (21) made a meteoric rise in his debut season last year but could face a lengthy lay-off with the same serious injury that has struck down fellow Lilywhites Dermot Earley, Mikey Conway, Ken Donnelly and Rob Kelly in the past season.
The Two Mile House star suffered the injury just 30 seconds into an O'Byrne Cup match against Meath last Tuesday when he was captaining UCD.
"I turned and just felt a crunching and my knee collapsed," he said last night. "I had a scan yesterday, and am having it scoped tomorrow. It's not yet clear exactly what it is but it could be the cruciate. I'm still hoping it's only the cartilage."
Today's scope will determine the exact nature of the injury and whether or not Kelly will need surgery, but the prognosis does not look good.
However long he is out he will be a massive loss, not just to the Kildare full-back line that he helped shore up last summer after their collapse against Louth, but also to UCD.
The Belfield college are expected to make a concerted bid for Sigerson Cup glory, as they are hosting it in its centenary year, and Kelly is one of their star men.
Earley and Donnelly both played parts in last year's championship run for Kildare despite their injuries -- Earley has since had surgery -- and Kilkenny hurlers Henry Shefflin and John Tennyson had contrasting experiences in the All-Ireland hurling final after their intensive efforts to recover from cruciate injuries in a short time.
"It's a terrible blow, as Peter had worked so hard and had such a great year," Kildare selector Niall Carew said.
"One thing's for sure though, given what he's done this far in his career, he'll do whatever it takes to come back."
Carew agreed that the squad had had an unusual number of cruciate issues in recent years and that the management has investigated the possibility that training might have something to do with it.
"I think it's just very bad luck," he said. "Dermot's was gone a while, Mikey has had a weakness in both knees over the years and Ken Donnelly's brothers have had the same injury before."
Carew scotched reports that Rob Kelly had suffered a recurrence of his knee problems, revealing that the Straffan man had trained this week after a bout of flu and will be back playing, with UCD, this weekend.
Elsewhere, Kildare club Ballymore Eustace will be without county star James Kavanagh for Sunday's delayed Leinster intermediate football final against Nobber of Meath.
Kavanagh was nominated for an All Star last season but is in Australia on holiday.