Shefflin’s recovery has inspired me-Earley
Kildare ace determined to hit Lily heights once more to emulate King Henry
SEEING Henry Shefflin return from a second cruciate knee injury to receive his record 10th All Star last week has convinced Kildare football star Dermot Earley (33) that he, too, can make it back to the top of his game.
The Sarsfields midfielder is in the middle of rebuilding his knee after receiving cruciate surgery on it for the second time in eight months.
It was feared that the recurrence of the problem in the summer would force the totemic Lilywhite to retire from the game, but he has revealed that seeing Shefflin's spectacular comeback to his brilliant best this summer has been a huge factor in convincing him to stick with it.
"When you see the likes of Henry making the sort of recovery that he did after a second cruciate, that is extremely heartening," Earley said.
"Of course, Henry is an exceptional athlete and there's no guarantee that I will make as good a recovery as he has, but it has certainly spurred me on."
Earley added that Kildare's consistent progress in the championship, which has seen them make three All-Ireland quarter-finals and one semi-final in the past four years, has also increased his motivation and desire to be part of the picture.
"When you're injured you contribute whatever you can, but there's only so much you can do and what you really want is to be playing with the lads," he said.
"I always felt I wasn't ready to hang up my boots yet and seeing how well the team played again in the summer only underlined for me how much I want to contribute still, if I can at all.
"Being out for so long really makes you hungry to get back playing, so, if anything, it's given me an added appetite for playing.
"Of course, there's no guarantee yet of how well I'll get back, but I am working hard on my rehab and it's going well," he said.
Earley was an incalcuable loss to Kildare this year when he was rocked once again by the dreaded cruciate problem. He had surgery last October on the initial injury that forced him out of the 2010 All-Ireland quarter-final against Meath.
But just when he felt ready to mount a serious comeback for Kieran McGeeney's side, Earley received another huge setback. "My recovery seemed to be going fine until June," he explained.
"I was in the gym one day and felt a bit of a tweak in it. It wasn't bad or anything, but it just wasn't normal so I had a quick scan.
"Unfortunately we discovered that the original cruciate graft hadn't actually knitted. I hadn't even got back on the pitch or anything."
It was a dreadful blow, not just to Earley personally, but to Kildare, who were forced to move their best scorer, Johnny Doyle, out to midfield to compensate for the big man's extended absence.
"I had the second operation in June and I'm four months into the rehab now," Earley said. "It's tough and it is a pretty lonely road -- at this stage, it's about an awful lot of bike work. But it feels good, stronger than it did the last time, actually, and I hope to get back running on it again in another month or two. I have to be realistic.
"I'm not a young lad anymore, but if everything continues to go well, I'd hope to come back in time for the late stages of the National League."
Earley and his Kildare team-mates will be at Naas racecourse tomorrow to meet and greet fans as part of a Club Kildare team fundraiser.
The players will be looking forward to seeing Julie Davis, their conditioning coach, being pushed to her own limits this time as she and former Kildare players Sos Dowling and Eddie McCormack are among the 20 amateurs who have signed up to ride in the charity race at 5.30.
And Earley is already itching for the return of next year's National League, especially if Kildare's opening game against Tyrone is played as part of a double-header in Croke Park with a Dublin versus Kerry All-Ireland final rematch.
"If that comes off it would be a great double-header," he said.
"Everyone loves to go to Croke Park and any time we get a chance to play there is a bonus for our players, so I'd say it would attract a great crowd and provide a great start to the national league."
•Tickets for tomorrow's Club Kildare race day may be obtained through Pat Mangan (087-2411389) or any players on the Kildare senior panel. Tickets €15 each.