Lilywhites talisman Earley in fitness fight

DERMOT EARLEY will be given until right before throw-in to prove his fitness for Kildare’s All-Ireland semi-final with Down on Sunday.

The All-Star has been named at midfield in an unchanged line-up to that which started the quarter-final against Meath.

The Sarsfields talisman has played throughout the championship with a cruciate ligament injury but suffered further damage just three minutes into the Meath game and hobbled off.

He has since undergone surgery and returned to training last week. Improvement has been significant but he still faces a race against time to take his place, with Hugh Lynch, who replaced him to very good effect against the Royals, on standby to step in.

“We want to give Dermot every opportunity to take his place,” said selector Niall Carew yesterday. “He is making progress all the time and we will give him a fitness test on the day.”

There is just one positional switch in the attack, with team captain, Johnny Doyle and Eoghan O’Flaherty swapping roles at left half-forward and right corner-forward, although given the fluidity of the Kildare forward division, such positions are nominal only.

The only other selection of significance sees Brian Flanagan holding off the challenge of Mick Foley to keep his spot at left half-back.

Meanwhile, Carew has welcomed the appointment of Pat McEnaney as referee for Sunday’s game, even though the Monaghan whistler was criticised in some quarters for awarding Dublin a couple of debatable frees late on in last year’s Leinster final.

Carew admitted that some decisions might have been “soft” but is loud in his praise of a man recognised as one of the country’s premier referees.

“Pat McEnaney has been one of the top referees for the last decade,” said Carew. “He has proven that many times and he proved it again the way he refereed the Leinster final last year.

“We were a little disappointed that there were three frees given at the end that we thought were a little soft and gave Dublin the chance to pull away from us but these things go against you at times and with you at other times. I have no doubt but that Pat will call it as he sees it on Sunday.”

Down have deferred selection until tomorrow night.

lVal Andrews and Terry Hyland were ratified last night as joint managers of the Cavan senior footballers. The duo succeed Tommy Carr, who stepped down after the side exited the All-Ireland qualifiers in the summer.

Andrews, who was in charge of this year’s Dublin’s minors, is returning for a second stint with the Breffni men, having served from 1998-2000, before going on to take charge of Louth.

Hyland managed Cavan minors and is expected to bring indepth knowledge of the local scene to the job.

KILDARE (SFC v Down): S McCormack; P Kelly, H McGrillan, A Mac Lochlainn; M O’Flaherty, E Bolton, B Flanagan; D Flynn, D Earley; J Kavanagh, P O’Neill, J Doyle; E O’Flaherty, A Smith, E Callaghan.

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