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'I Thought The Best Way I Could Honour Him Was To Go Out And Play'

'I Thought The Best Way I Could Honour Him Was To Go Out And Play'

In the summer of 2010, just hours after burying his father, Dermot Earley lined out for Kildare in a qualifier game against Antrim.

Earley's father, also named Dermot, was a two-time All-Star with Roscommon and also served as chief of staff for the defence forces.

"It was early January that we were given a diagnosis that it was a terminal form of CJD (Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease)," says Earley in his episode of TG4 series Laochra Gael.

"It was a real difficult time for us all. It was just a shock that a man who was so big, so physically strong, at the top of his game, that something like this could happen.

"He was always the person that looked after you and looked out for you, gave you that bit of advice when you needed it. Just to lose that side of him [was tough]. He probably became very quiet and within himself. It was tough to watch that.

"We ended up having a vigil with him for three days and he passed away on the Wednesday at 12 o'clock during the day, surrounded by all of us (his family)."

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Kildare had lost to Louth in the Leinster quarter-final, sending them into the first round of the qualifiers against Antrim.

Earley's teammate and friend Johnny Doyle says he and the panel wanted the midfielder to play. "I remember just saying to him, 'Whatever is right for you is right for us'," says Doyle.

Later that evening, Earley rang Doyle telling him he'd spoken with his mother and that he would be playing.

26 June 2010; Dermot Earley, 9, Kildare, stands with his team manager Kieran McGeeney and teammates during the national anthem. All-Ireland Senior Championship qualifier round 1, Kildare v Antrim, St Conleth's Park, Newbridge. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

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"I thought the best way I could go out and honour him was to go out and play, and play the best that I could play that day," says Earley.

"Running out onto the pitch at St Conleth's Park, the reception that the Kildare team got was huge. Instead of doing a minute's silence, they did a minute's applause.

"We all got together and lined up. I could feel the support of all the players around me. Kieran (McGeeney) stood in, and well all stood together in a line. It just shows the support that Kieran and the guys had for me that night."

In retrospect, Kildare manager at the time Kieran McGeeney says he and the Kildare players were trying to support Earley but "When you look back and see that picture, you nearly feel that Dermot is holding the team up rather than the other way around".

Kildare drew with Antrim that day but went on to beat them in a replay. It set Kildare on an adventure to the All-Ireland semi-final where they lost to Down.

Dermot Earley's episode of Laochra Gael airs at 9:30pm Thursday, February 11th on TG4.

Featured image credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

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PJ Browne
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