Earley influence will always be a spur for Sarsfields

It was a journey that gathered pace from what is now known as Earley’s Barn in Cloonelt to the house in Gortaganny that came with his father’s job as principal of the national school, before ending on the other side of the country in Newbridge.

Of all the departures, the greatest wrench for Dermot Earley came in his 30s, when the tortuous route to Roscommon from Kildare, travelled so regularly for club and county, took its toll. With a heavy heart he said goodbye to Michael Glavey’s.

Once he threw his lot in with Sarsfields though, it was lock, stock and barrel. The impact was immediate and his influence continued to be felt until his death in 2010.

You couldn’t say that Earley went medal-hunting. Sarsfields had known nothing but barren times since a team that included the great Paddy ‘Boiler’ White (grandfather of current midfielder, Gary) completed a three-in-a-row in 1952.

Earley was a monumental force as a 30-year famine ended in 1982 and the Sash won the All-Ireland 7s titles in the next two seasons.

“At the time, he was still playing with Roscommon but would have played as much as possible with the club, be it in league or championship matches,” recalled former club chairman and secretary, Brian Dempsey.

“I remember once, he was playing Connacht championship for Roscommon in the afternoon and he was flown by helicopter back to play championship for Sarsfields that evening.”

Nobody ever thought of Dermot Earley as a blow-in and he didn’t consider himself one. He spoke of ‘the Sarsfields way’ and was known to censure anyone who was abusive in their criticism of a referee, or a player who crossed the bounds of sportsmanship.

When his playing days ended, he threw himself into the development of Sarsfields, which until 1983 had a tin shed in Roseberry as its base. Using an innate ability that saw him become Irish Defence Forces Chief of Staff, he could rally the troops and appease dissenters.

“Club structures were very important to him,” says Dempsey.

“As well as having everything right on the pitch, you had to have them right off the pitch. You had to have somewhere for players and supporters to call home, to come back to after a game.”

In May, Sarsfields renamed their underage programme the Dermot Earley Academy, as he revelled in the nurturing of young talent. And he did that in a very direct way with his own children, all six of whom played with the club. Indeed, only one of them didn’t play for Kildare. Dermot Jnr and Noelle emulated him as All Star winners.

Many will think of him tomorrow. He helped drag Sarsfields out of the doldrums and perhaps that’s why he relished provincial competition so much.

In 2005, he was chairman as Kilmacud Crokes snatched a one-point victory in the Leinster final at the death. There were tears in his eyes but in the dressing room, he shook hands with every member of the panel, thanking them for their efforts.

“Being beaten by a point in a Leinster final broke his heart but he’d had his heart broken many times before and he always came back the following year” declared Dempsey.

In Sarsfields, he will always be alive.

* Galway officials have launched an investigation into the incidents which marred Sunday’s county hurling final.

St Thomas’ won their first ever title when they defeated Loughrea by 3-11 to 2-11 but the event was marred by a number of unruly incidents.

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