Friday 24 March 2017

Kildare name unchanged team, but doubts hang over Earley

Daragh O Conchuir

Dermot Earley will be given until just before throw-in to prove his fitness for Kildare's All-Ireland semi-final with Down on Sunday.

The All Star has been named at midfield in an identical line-up to that which started the quarter-final against Meath, despite serious doubts over his knee injury.

The Sarsfields talisman, the only survivor from Kildare's last appearance in an All-Ireland final in 1998, has played throughout the championship with a cruciate ligament injury but suffered further damage three minutes into the Meath game and hobbled off.

He has since undergone surgery and returned to training last week but remains an extremely doubtful starter. Hugh Lynch, who replaced him to very good effect against the Royals, is on stand-by to step in.

"We want to give Dermot every opportunity to take his place," said selector Niall Carew. "He is making progress all the time and we will give him a fitness test on the day."

While captain Johnny Doyle has been named at right corner-forward, local sources indicate the Allenwood ace could swap positions with left half-forward Eoghan O'Flaherty before the throw-in.

The only other selection of significance sees Brian Flanagan holding off the challenge of Mick Foley to keep his spot at left half-back.

Meanwhile, Carew has welcomed the appointment of Pat McEnaney as referee for Sunday's game, even though the Monaghan man was criticised for awarding Dublin a couple of debatable frees late on in last year's Leinster final.

Carew admitted that some decisions might have been "soft" but praised a man viewed as one of the country's premier referees.

"Pat McEnaney has been one of the top referees for the last decade," he said. "He has proven that many times and he proved it again the way he refereed the Leinster final last year.

"We were a little disappointed that there were three frees given at the end that we thought were a little soft and gave Dublin the chance to pull away from us, but these things go against you at times and with you at other times.

"I have no doubt but that Pat will call it as he sees it on Sunday."

Kildare (SF v Down) -- S McCormack; P Kelly, H McGrillen, A Mac Lochlainn; M O'Flaherty, E Bolton, B Flanagan; D Flynn, D Earley; J Kavanagh, P O'Neill, E O'Flaherty; J Doyle, A Smith, E Callaghan.

Irish Independent

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