In Dublin to pick up his first Vodafone GAA Player of the Month award (for May) and, accompanied by his father Dermot – the Roscommon great and current Army Chief of Staff – he stressed the former Orchard county star was “playing to the strengths he sees in the Kildare panel”.
Said Earley: “When a manager comes in he looks at what he has, the strengths and weaknesses of the panel. The idea is to get the panel to play to their strengths and that’s exactly what he has been doing this year.
“He would have looked at ‘what we have’ and based on that, come up with the way he wants us to play.
“He’s playing to the strengths he sees in the Kildare panel. That’s the main thing.”
The 30-year-old agreed the team’s good run through the qualifiers last year was testament to the success of McGeeney’s approach and that it helped the newer players gain valuable experience.
“Kieran was probably a hero to some of the lads and to have a fellow like that come in and be your manager was great.
“But, things don’t happen straight away and we had a tough league. It was all about gaining experience, learning from each game and trying to go out and improve in the next one. We are delighted to have him there and it’s going well, but it could all go downhill the next day.”
The “next day” sees the Lilywhites coming up against Laois in a Leinster semi-final. “The idea is to stay winning. Obviously every team wants to win its provincial title and for Kildare that would be a huge achievement. But you can’t look that far and I would reiterate that. We are just taking it one step at a time and Laois in two weeks is going to be our toughest game this year.”
A possible Leinster final appearance isn’t the only motivation; Earley wants to stay clear of the qualifiers.
“You’re looking at five matches in four weeks to try and get to an All-Ireland quarter-final and that is not the way any team wants to go,” he said.
One of the few remaining links with the team of 1998 which Mick O’Dwyer brought to the All-Ireland final only to lose to Galway, Earley remembers the hype which surrounded the game and the impact it had on the players. He knows that the squad must divorce themselves from all that is being said and written about them after wins over Offaly and Wexford.
“You have to distance yourself from all that. If you allow yourself get caught up in it, you are not focused. Let the supporters talk all they want but we are staying focused on Laois. I was young in 1998. After two years (in the team) I had played in an All-Ireland final and won two Leinsters. I thought ‘this is the way it’s going to be every year in Kildare’. But, we haven’t won since 2000 and not played in a final since 2003 – when Laois beat us. Good times don’t last. Maybe that’s why Kildare fans are passionate and get carried away.
“We won’t be worried about that. We’ll just be worried by ourselves.”