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Earley to soldier on after surgery

Dermot Earley enters hospital today for a second cruciate ligament operation in nine months that he hopes can save his inter-county career.

Earley sustained a recurrence of the injury in April and has had to come to terms with the fact that he will not play football again until 2012 -- provided everything goes well.

In Croke Park yesterday for the opening of a special exhibition of memorabilia from his late father Dermot's GAA and army careers, Earley said he fully intends being a Kildare player in 2012 and extending his inter-county career to a 15th season.

"Hopefully that will be the end of operations and I can enjoy the six months of rehab and we'll see what happens in January. I'll give it a go again, that's the plan anyway," he said.

Earley played through much of last season with a partially torn cruciate, but complications developed and he had to withdraw from the All-Ireland quarter-final win over Meath after only a few minutes.

A complicated surgical process was completed in October but a setback was sustained two months ago that has written off the season entirely.


"Thankfully it's just my cruciate so it's a much more straightforward operation than the one I had last October. Hopefully this will fix it once and for all. There wasn't any incident or anything like that, it's just, whatever happened, it happened," he said.

"I hadn't gone back training and I had done all my work in the gym. I had just gone back running and I went to get it checked out and it hadn't healed correctly so I'm going in to get it healed again."

Thoughts of retiring were countenanced, he admitted, but the "honour" of paying for his county supplanted everything.

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"You're disappointed of course, but it's an honour to play with your county, to get out there and represent your club and your family, and I felt that I hadn't finished yet," he said.

Earley remains part of the Kildare squad and feels steady progress is being made as they build up to next week's Leinster semi-final against Dublin.

"We had a tough opener against Wicklow and we knew how tough that was going to be. We learned from our past mistakes. It wasn't the prettiest of football but a win in the first round is all you want. We improved against Meath and there's still a lot to improve on, such as finishing, but you have to be positive about creating so many chances," he said.

"We're under no illusions either. We're going in against one of the top three teams in the country that have been consistently performing all year. For us, it'll be a huge boost if we could manage to beat them but, at the same time, we know we have our work cut out for us."

Dermot Snr's anniversary is next Thursday and it'll be 12 months to the day that Dermot Jnr lined out against Antrim in a first-round qualifier in Newbridge having buried his father only hours earlier.

Amidst the memorabilia and footnotes of his father's career yesterday, he explained why it was so important to him to play that evening.

"I felt people might not understand it, but the GAA has such a huge part in our family, it's the focus of every dinner conversation in our house," he said.

"It all goes back to the GAA and I think sometimes when you're playing at inter-county level it's hard (for some people) to understand the commitment, but we understand it in our family, and my father understood it.

"I just felt, and my mother felt, and the family felt, that it was the best way for me to honour him by going out there and playing that evening.

"People might have thought that we should have been home with the family, but my whole family was there. This was our home and that was the best place to do it."

The Dermot Earley Snr exhibition will be open in the GAA museum for the next 12 months.

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