Kerry hurling manager Fintan O’Connor has led the tributes to Pa Kelly who has announced his retirement from the inter-county scene.
The 2013 Clare All-Ireland winner switched his county allegiance to the Kingdom four years ago and played an instrumental role in the Christy Ring success of 2015.
“It's with a heavy heart that I announce my retirement from inter county hurling with Kerry,” he said in a statement. “To play at this level requires 100% dedication, but unfortunately I could not keep up with the demands to play at this high level.
“I would like to thank Fintan O'Connor and his management team in their support of my decision. I would also like to thank Ger McCarthy, Paudie Dineen, John Joe Carroll and everybody in the Kerry County Board who have supported me and who have helped me to play for Kerry over the last 4 and half years, along with providing assistance for the players whenever we had asked. I would also like to thank Eamon Kelly who 1st gave me the opportunity to play for The Kingdom.
“I would like to thank my club Clarecastle. Without their understanding and well wishes I wouldn't have been able to play for both teams. I would also like to recognise the continued backing from the staff and students of Scoil Pol throughout my Kerry journey.
“I would like to thank my family, girlfriend Claire and friends for their unwavering support throughout my time with Kerry. Their support and passion for the green and gold was a contributing factor for us being so successful, which cumulated in us gaining promotion to the Division 1 Hurling and been crowned Christy Ring Champions in 2015.
“Finally, to the players who accepted me as one of their own. It was a privilege to dawn the green and gold with ye, and I will be forever indebted to you all for the manner in which you've treated me. I wish Kerry hurling all the best in 2019, and I hope to be in Croke Park in July seeing Martin Stackpoole lift the Joe McDonagh cup.
Fintan O'Connor commented: “I would like to congratulate Pa Kelly on his retirement. We are all disappointed in Kerry to lose Pa as he was an exceptional member of the squad, both as a player and an inspirational figure behind the scenes. Having had such great experience, Pa was able to share his knowledge particularly with the younger members of the squad and they are better because of it.
“Pa has left the set up but given his great contribution to hurling in Kerry, he will always remain an 'honorary Kerryman'
“I wish Pa, Claire and all his family every good wish for the future.”