Earley refusing to put date on injury return
GIVEN some of Kildare's luck recently, Dermot Earley is wise not to put a date on his return from a second cruciate operation inside a few months.
Apart from the high-profile decisions that went against Kildare at crucial times both last summer and in 2010, they have been hampered by long-term knee injuries to Earley, Mikey Conway, Hugh Lynch, Peter Kelly and Ken Donnelly.
And while Earley has progressed further than he had before suffering a relapse earlier this year and is "back doing a small bit of running", he's not setting any targets for a return to action.
"With a second (operation), you have to be that bit more careful so I'm not putting a timeline on it. I'm not specifically saying I want to get back for this game in the league or that game in the championship. I will know myself when it's right and hopefully that will be before the championship," he said.
Earley, who will be 34 next summer, hadn't even got back to light running when he was forced to go under the knife for a second time after a graft didn't take. This time, the signs are better as a graft from his hamstring has worked better and shown steady improvement.
Kelly, Donnelly and Conway all stepped up their rehabilitation when they played some part as a Kildare side played a Patrician selection recently in a specially sanctioned game to mark the Newbridge secondary school's Golden Jubilee celebrations.
And while Kildare have been on the receiving end of some bad luck on certain occasions, Earley cited the experience of Cork and Dublin, who also suffered heartbreaking defeats before they made their All-Ireland breakthroughs in the past two seasons.
"That (All-Ireland quarter-final) against Donegal, it was a really tough defeat to take -- mentally tough. It was the worst dressing-room I've ever seen," Earley said at the launch of the announcement of Bord na Mona as sponsors of Leinster GAA's O'Byrne, Walsh and Kehoe Cups.
"To lose it like that with the last kick of the game, when we actually had the game... it goes to show you that decisions can go against you. I think it will motivate ourselves to train harder. They say, the harder you train the luckier you get.
"We looked at certain things. And we'll work on them. But you have to take heart as well. Look at Cork -- when they won the All-Ireland they had a couple of years similar to ourselves.
"And look at Dublin and the defeats they had and how much mentally stronger they are for it now. We're on that curve.
"That last 5pc is always the hardest. But that's what separates the winners from the losers."
In light of the ongoing speculation linking Seanie Johnston to Kildare, Earley insisted that while the acquisition of the Cavan man was unlikely, any 'outsider' to join the county side would be forced to earn their spot in Kieran McGeeney's side.
"Maybe with Kildare, when you look back, we've had players leave us and players join us. It's always bandied about. I haven't seen anyone, I haven't heard anything. I haven't seen any of the boys," he said.
"It's up to the boys themselves. Karl O'Dwyer and Brian Lacey transferred to clubs in Kildare and they made a huge difference.
"I still think if a player wants to come, he has to work hard to get on our team. If a fella is doing that, he deserves to be on it. But I haven't seen anyone or heard anything. To be honest, I doubt it."
Bord na Mona's sponsorship of the O'Byrne, Walsh and Kehoe Cups will also benefit the province's hardship fund. The three-year deal is the first sponsorship arrangement since the pre-season Leinster competitions were founded in 1954 and will help the existing fund that goes towards players, families and officials facing difficult times.