The 2013 Clare panellist transferred to Kerry this year and made an immediate impact with a key role in their Ring Cup success.
However, that second tier win has elevated Kerry to the same MacCarthy Cup status as Kelly’s home county, thereby ruling him ineligible for Kerry in 2016.
Rule 6.9 of the GAA’s Official Guide states that the transfer of players from elite counties to weaker ones is permitted as long as ‘the county availing of this rule is not participating in the All-Ireland senior hurling championship or Division 1 of the national league’.
Kerry will also feature in Division 1B next season after their breakthrough promotion though manager Eamon Kelly said his belief is that the Ring Cup success was what ruled the Clare man ineligible.
Tipperary trio James Logue, John O’Neill and Davy Butler were also involved with Kerry this year and are subject to the same ineligibility rule.
Midfielder Kelly was by far the most influential of the quartet and Kerry’s only chance of holding onto him appears to rest with a club transfer.
“At present, Pa Kelly is not eligible to play with us and that’s where things stand,” said Kingdom boss Kelly. “There’s some talk that he may transfer to a Kerry club as he has relations in Moyvane.
“I obviously can’t put any pressure on him, it’s got to be totally his own decision.
“I will say he was a player who really bought into Kerry and commanded great respect for doing so, he was a terrific part of the whole thing for us. We’ll have to see how it pans out.
“On the plus side, we have some very good hurlers in Kerry who haven’t given the commitment for whatever reason but hopefully we can get them on board now to lift the thing.” Clarecastle club man Kelly missed Kerry’s Ring Cup semi-final demolition of Kildare because of another rule stating players must play for their home club when a fixture clash occurs.
He returned to play a central role in the final win over Derry at Croke Park and his form may have convinced Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald to recall him next season.
Ironically, Kerry manager Kelly is currently involved with Fitzgerald’s club Sixmilebridge though he insisted there’s been no discussions about the situation.
Clare chairman Michael McDonagh said he had no issues, in principle, about Kelly remaining on as a Kerry player.
“I can’t see any reason why he shouldn’t be let play on for Kerry,” said McDonagh.
“The only reservation I’d have would be if he’s in Clare’s plans but if he’s not I think it would be only right to leave him doing what he’s doing and enjoying.”
Kerry chief Kelly said his own position as boss remains undecided despite the lure of Division 1B and MacCarthy Cup hurling in 2016.