DERMOT EARLEY has pinpointed Kildare’s All-Ireland quarter-final clash with Meath as a defining game in the county’s history.
The Lilywhites are contesting their third straight All-Ireland quarter-final but that impressive statistic masks a generally poor tradition at the very top level.
In fact, while opponents Meath have contested two All-Ireland semi-finals in the last three years, it’s taken Kildare a whopping 54 years to do the same.
Admittedly, those two semi-finals were in 1998 and 2000, with Earley featuring in both of them, but they can still count themselves novices at the very top level of Gaelic football.
“Absolutely,” agreed Earley at yesterday’s launch of the MBNA Kick Fada which takes place at the Bray Emmets club on September 11.
“This is a quarter-final and there is a statistic someone said to me recently that Kildare have only been in two semi-finals in the last 60 years or so, so it’s a huge thing to us to advance, this is massive.
“I came into the Kildare team in 1997. The first game was against Laois, I was a sub that day. Then there were the three games against Meath and then a Leinster and an All-Ireland in 1998 and another Leinster and an All-Ireland semi-final in 2000.
“I thought that was the way it was going to be every year. But 10 years later now, things change in football so much. Thankfully we have a great bunch of players at the moment who want to do well and improve every year. That means quarter-final last year and hopefully a semi-final this year.”
The Leinster neighbours approach Sunday’s last eight tie with contrasting form to call upon; Meath the Leinster champions, in name at least, after snatching victory from Louth, Kildare the only team to have come through all four rounds of qualifiers.
Earley can see how both routes could prove advantageous.
“Playing matches week in, week out is a great way to be, you can build momentum if you keep winning and thankfully we have,” said the All Star midfielder.
“The provincial route is always the way you want to go though. Meath have had three weeks off, they’re well rested.’’
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved