JOHN CROFTON looks back on the career of Dermot Earley.
I actually gave Dermot his first ever senior championship game. It was in 1996 against Raheens and I played him full-forward. Looking at him coming up through the ranks in the club we knew we had a serious player on our hands. He was a very strong underage player and of course the fact that his father was playing with us during those formative years, we had Dermot Earley the inter-county star and we had Dermot Earley the underage star.
The first time he really hit the headlines in the club was in the 1996 minor final. Himself and Padraig Brennan between them near enough beat Moorefield in that final. It wasn’t a one-man destruction job, it was a two-man destruction job
Even as a 16, 17-year-old the only thing stopping him playing adult football was literally his age. He had a tremendous leap, a tremendous jump and he had such good hands. His distribution was top class. At that stage he was already reminding me of the great Cork forward Ray Cummins because at that point we thought full-forward was maybe going to be his position.
When I took charge of Kildare in 2006, he played against Offaly in the first round in Croke Park but he was only back from injury. That year he broke his collarbone in a league match against Derry and was only back before that Offaly game. In the second year he didn’t play at all because of a metatarsal injury. In actual fact if you look at it, in the last seven or eight years, the only time in my opinion that Dermot got a full winter and spring injury free was his All-Star year in 2009. That’s it really. He’s had in quick succession metatarsal injuries and no sooner had he got over that than he had recurring problems with his knee.
Dermot is such a natural athlete though that during those periods of injury there is no other player in the country that could have kept themselves in the pristine condition that Dermot did. He would be in the gym or in the pool or whatever it was to maintain his fitness levels or to build on them within the confines of whatever the injury was. That’s still the case now.
Look at him, he is still in pristine condition. He’s done all the training that the Kildare lads have done and he has a bank of fitness built up.
I can remember us being beaten by Naas last year in the championship and it was the only game that Dermot got to play in. What I remember about that game apart from the pain of losing was the last 15 or 18 minutes because the best player on the field was Dermot Earley. When the chips were down he opened his shoulders and he played like he always did for Sarsfields.
I remember having a conversation with Dermot earlier this year. We were due to play Moorefield in the Aldridge Cup final and Dermot had played a couple of games for us in the competition. He was back, motoring well and was expecting to see action in the league for Kildare against Dublin. He was told he would see action in that match. I spoke to him on the Wednesday after that game, the Aldridge Cup game was on the Friday and Kildare were playing Mayo on the Saturday. Kildare were travelling overnight and at that stage Dermot’s injury was seen as a back spasm and nothing too serious. He was hoping to tog out on the Friday night and if he did that he was going to travel to Mayo. He went from that to having incredible pain and the thing was much worse than what was originally diagnosed.
From a club point of view though there will be no question of demands being put on Dermot. He needs complete rest now but if it comes to pass that he wants to play and he is able to play we’d be thrilled. Even if it doesn’t come, he is such a presence about the place.
I definitely could see him as a manager in the future. Dermot has a presence about him and that’s something he shares with his Dad. When you talk football with Dermot, he is very clever, he understands the game tactically. The experience that he has picked up over the various regimes, particularly the current one, will stand to him.
John Crofton is the current Sarsfields manager and a former Kildare manager