INSPIRATIONAL Kildare midfielder Dermot Earley believes he can return to the highest level of inter-county football after a second cruciate knee ligament injury.
After undergoing reconstructive surgery on his knee for the second time in eight months, the 33-year-old is midway through his rehabilitation.
It was feared that Earley's latest injury blow would cut short an illustrious career but the Lilywhite midfielder has used Henry Shefflin's recovery from a similar situation as an inspiration. "When you see the likes of Henry making the sort of recovery that he did after a second cruciate, that is extremely heartening," he said.
"Of course, Henry is an exceptional athlete and there is no guarantee that I will make as good a recovery as he has, but it has certainly spurred me on."
After missing out on Kildare's championship exploits in 2011 and their agonising defeat by Donegal in the All-Ireland quarter final, Earley is as motivated as ever to get back into the Lilywhites set-up.
"When you're injured you contribute whatever you can, but there is only so much you can do and what you really want to be doing is playing with the lads," he added.
"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 makes you hungry to get back playing, so, if anything, it's given me an added appetite for playing.
"I am working hard on my rehab and it's going well."
Ross Dunphy, the former Wexford footballer, is the new strength and conditioning coach with the Tipperary senior hurlers. The 33-year-old, who holds a Sports Science degree from the University of Limerick, has plenty of hurling experience having coached Tipperary club side Toomevara for three years.