Monaghan All Star nominee Niall Kearns is set to miss the Allianz League as he recovers from a heart operation.
The young midfielder was nominated after a superb first inter-county season in 2018 saw him help Monaghan reach a first All-Ireland SFC semi-final in 30 years.
However he will miss a large chunk of Monaghan’s season after having an operation in a Dublin hospital last October to repair a heart valve, requiring months of recuperation before he can resume his football career.
“Niall’s had a heart operation so he won’t be seen until at least the end of the league campaign,” confirmed Monaghan boss Malachy O’Rourke.
“He has a fair recovery period ahead of him.
“It was decided this was the time to get something done to hopefully prolong his career.
“It was a fairly serious operation so he will need a fair bit of time to get himself back ready again.”
Kearns made his championship debut in the Ulster SFC opening-round win over Tyrone in Omagh and continued to make rapid progress all summer. He was still in the starting 15 when Monaghan lost out to Tyrone in the All-Ireland semi-final and will be a significant loss during the Allianz League.
Kieran Hughes will also be on the sidelines when Monaghan kick off the campaign at home to champions Dublin at Clones in two weeks’ time.
The Scotstown man has been carrying a niggling hamstring injury for some time and O’Rourke is anxious to resolve the problem.
“Kieran Hughes is still struggling with the hamstring and he’s definitely not going to be there for the start of the National League at least.
“I don’t know how far into the league it will be before we see him.
“He’s been carrying that from the championship last year. He wasn’t able to train with us a lot of the time.
Monaghan shocked the Dubs in Croke Park last year winning the last Division One game, albeit the All-Ireland champions were already sure of making the final. They also beat Kerry last year during an impressive league game.
“Our first game is at home to Dublin and they don’t lose too many games,” added O’Rourke. “We’ve been delighted to stay in Division One this last number of years but we have to prepare well because there are no guarantees in that division.”