Dermot Earley believes inter-county players will be paid to play in the future but also maintains the commitment required to play at the top level means careers will be shorter.
Earley, who announced his retirement due to a bulging disc in his back on Sunday, 16 years after making his championship debut against Meath.
“We all have a love for GAA and we want to be there and we want to win,” said Earley on Kfm Radio. “And we’ll do whatever it takes. Sometimes you push your body to the limit but that’s why you play.”
The Sarsfields man agreed that he would love to have been paid to play and believes that some form of financial recompense beyond the current grant is inevitable.
“We’re not going to get to massive levels but maybe to the point where there’ll have to be some sort of remuneration for players.
“I can see where the window of a county player will reduce. The first half (of my career) was the Tuesdays and Thursdays. You could live a life and almost socialise too much. Nowadays it’s a seven-day turnaround. People will always do it because they love it but I don’t think they’ll be able to manage it over 10, 12 years.”
Earley first wore a Kildare jersey at an U14 blitz in Ballykelly. Mick O’Dwyer brought him into training at the end of 1996 but having joined the Cadets, he couldn’t commit.
He played a challenge against Louth the following year though and before long, was a 20-year-old enjoying a fairytale odyssey all the way to the All-Ireland final.
“It started off against Dublin (and) went to a replay.
“The first game I was a bystander and I could have been taken off after 20 minutes but the experience stood to me and the next day I felt I would have made a better contribution.
“To beat Dublin after struggling for so long... I can remember after the final whistle blew, Glenn (Ryan) sunk to his knees and we all jumped on top of him. That was the start of something.”
The Leinster final against Meath was a chance for redemption for Kildare after losing to the Royals in a second replay the previous season.
Earley himself had wasted an opportunity to settle the first drawn game having been introduced as a sub to make his championship bow but 12 months later, he caught Christy Byrne’s kickout and fed Martin Lynch, who in turn supplied Bryan Murphy for the late, defining goal.
“It was unreal. There are no pitch invasions anymore but we were able to stand up on the steps of the Hogan Stand and look at the sea of white. Unbelievable memories.”
He scored a goal in the All-Ireland final but recalls the “heartbreak” of defeat to Galway and the brilliance of Ja Fallon in particular.
One more Leinster title was his sole reward for years of dedication but he firmly believes that the current crop can deliver the goods.
“You have to have so many factors going for you. That was the dream that kept me going to get back to that level. I really did feel in more recent years we had the opportunities, we had the team and we have the team to do it.”
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