Wednesday 13 December 2017

Earley targets semi-final date

Dermot Earley didn't know how easy he had it. In his formative years as a Kildare midfielder, he was treated to a series of rollercoaster seasons with long summers and plenty glory, writes Ruaidhri O'Connor.

The county would be decked out in white each August. They reached the 1998 All-Ireland final and the semis in 2000. Big days in Croke Park were becoming a routine. But the next step never came and for a decade Earley has worn the white jersey with distinction but with little success.

For the third year in a row the Lilywhites are in the quarter-finals. They are back within 70 minutes of the big time, a semi-final, and Earley knows these chances won't come around too often again.

"It's a semi-final and there is a statistic someone said to me that Kildare have only been in three semi-finals in the last 60 years, so it's a huge thing to us," he said.

"I came into Kildare in 1997. The first game was against Laois. Then there was the three games against Meath that year and then a Leinster and an All-Ireland final in 1998 and another Leinster and an All-Ireland semi-final in 2000.

"I thought that's the way it was going to be every year. But 10 years later, things change in football so much. We have a great bunch of players at the moment who want to do well and improve every year.

"That means hopefully a semi-final this year. When you have a bit of success I think sometimes it can be taken for granted."

Last year Tyrone ended Kildare's run at this stage, but Saturday's opponents Meath are a more familiar foe for Kieran McGeeney's men, despite the fact the two have not met in the championship since 2007. And the popular Army officer says last year's experience will count for a lot against the Royals.

"We hadn't been in that arena for so long," he said. "The Leinster final, the All-Ireland quarter-final, big games like that, you learn from each one. It's a tough task for us, but we're up for it."

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