Kildare resigned to facing challenge of Down without their injury-hit talismanic midfielder
Dermot Earley's prospects of starting Sunday's All-Ireland semi-final have all but vanished despite his return to training in recent days.
Earley is unlikely to be risked from the start by the Kildare selectors after he limped out of the quarter-final win over Meath when his troublesome knee collapsed beneath him. Earley has been playing with cruciate ligament damage all summer but, as he kicked a ball in the opening minute of the quarter-final, his knee gave way and forced him out with immediate effect.
Minor surgery to clean the knee out is behind him and he was back training late last week. However, Kildare are now resigned to the fact that their talismanic midfielder will not be with them for their first All-Ireland semi-final in a decade -- and an appearance off the bench is also thought unlikely, unless there is a dramatic improvement.
Hugh Lynch, who deputised so confidently against Meath when Earley went off, is the obvious choice to replace him.
Kildare have not deviated much from the same team over the last three games but a difficult call has emerged between Mick Foley and Brian Flanagan after Foley's impressive cameo against Meath when he came on.
On the training ground, one player who has been making a bold play for involvement is Ollie Lyons, who figured on this year's junior team.
There is some balance in Earley's probable absence, as Down are already prepared for Ambrose Rodgers sitting out the match because of cruciate ligament problems also. Dan Gordon, the team's full-back against Kerry, may be diverted to midfield, where he has so much experience, with Brendan McArdle stepping back into the No 3 shirt.