Earley upbeat over recovery in bid to bloom late for Lilies
Dermot Earley is targeting a return to the Kildare colours next year but will miss the entire league and the start of the championship.
Earley had an operation on his right knee five weeks ago to repair a cruciate ligament as well as a mini-fracture on the top of the cartilage, and the inspirational midfielder expects to be able to walk without the aid of crutches by the end of next week.
Kildare supporters will be delighted that Earley has joined Johnny Doyle in confirming his availability for next year, but the news regarding the two-time All Star is tempered by the fact that his reappearance in white is reliant on a trouble-free rehabilitation.
Team-mate Mikey Conway played no football this year after suffering a cruciate ligament injury in the 2009 qualifiers. He suffered a number of setbacks in his attempt to get back, including tendonitis, which is a common side-effect with cruciate injuries.
Even if all goes well for Earley, the Sarsfields man doesn't think he'll be ready until the latter stages of the Leinster championship if Kildare stay winning, or the All-Ireland qualifiers if they don't.
"I'm just doing exercises and a bit on the static bike," said Earley. "Your quad, knee and hamstrings lose a lot when you don't use them at all; it's hard to believe how much they lose.
"The plan is to be back next year, around June or July, if everything goes right. You have to be upbeat about these things."
Meanwhile, Tyrone defender Ryan McMenamin has rubbished claims that he is about to quit the inter-county scene.
"There is no word (of retirement)," said McMenamin. "I didn't contemplate it. I have already met Mickey (Harte). I have put my name forward for selection for next year."
A winner of three All-Irelands, McMenamin (33) maintains that age should be no barrier to performing at the top level.
"It's all about motivation, and not just for me but for the whole squad," he said.