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Monday 19 February 2018

Officer was respected leader in every field

Tom Brady

From the time he joined the Defence Forces as a cadet in 1965, Dermot Earley was being tipped as an officer who was likely to reach the top.

He was already displaying the leadership skills that were to be the hallmark of his career.

And his progress through the ranks of the military was mirrored on the GAA playing fields throughout the country.

Around the time he joined the Cadet School in the Curragh, Co Kildare, Lt Gen Earley made his debut as a senior footballer for Roscommon.

He was to remain the kingpin of the team for 20 years until he opted to retire from inter-county games in the summer of 1985, after his beloved county was beaten by Mayo in the Connacht final.

In a rare tribute to an opposing player, the Mayo men carried Dermot shoulder high from the field, and to applause from both sets of supporters on the sidelines.

Lt Gen Earley's outstanding footballing skills were matched by his honesty and integrity, attributes that earned him the respect of comrade and foe.

Successes with Roscommon resulted in two All-Star awards, a national league medal, an All-Ireland runners-up medal and five Connacht championship medals. But he went into the history books as the greatest footballer never to win an All-Ireland.

At the same time, he was establishing himself as an outstanding soldier in a wide range of roles. He was also one of a select band chosen as the first members of the elite Army Ranger Wing.

Lt Gen Earley also had extensive overseas service, and was a father figure who led by example when the going got tough.

A soldier who served under his command on his first overseas posting said last night: "He was a great boss, with a real ability to inspire."

Lt Gen Earley's service in a variety of appointments in the Middle East was followed by a four-year term as deputy military adviser to the UN Secretary General in New York, before he took command of the Irish battalion in Lebanon.

Appointed Chief of Staff in 2007, Lt Gen Earley was popular with all ranks -- and able to listen to all sides of an argument. Shortly after his appointment, he eased fears about sending troops to Chad -- the hardest mission ever undertaken by the Defence Forces.

Some of his six children have followed in his footsteps. Son Dermot is an Army officer and a Kildare footballer, while daughter Noelle captured an All-Star award last year on the Kildare ladies' football team.

Irish Independent

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