Kildare legend says Jason Ryan's team can salvage summer
TRADITIONALLY, Kildare supporters have never needed much or firm prompting to enter the realms of giddy optimism but that native positivity is the sort of drug they're mostly strung out for just now.
Dermot Earley's natural inclination is to be upbeat, too, but he at least speaks from experience of visiting the place in which his county's footballers find themselves now.
"The thing about the qualifiers is that one win can set you up," he says, ahead of Kildare's to Tullamore tomorrow, displaying the sort of upbeat view few of his brethren will in O'Connor Park.
"If you win on Saturday, last Sunday is forgotten. Because you automatically change your focus. One win can change everything."
Which is just as well.
Because changing everything is just about what Kildare need to do so salvage something from a season that is spinning very quickly out of control and heading for a frontal smash.
They are, whether tomorrow or in a couple of week's time, one loss away from write-off territory, a fate not caused entirely - but certainly not helped - by their public flogging in Croke Park last weekend by Dublin.
"As a supporter, you always go in with hope," Earley says. "And I think Kildare went in with hope.
"But if you hope you're going to win a game, you're not going to win it. You have to really believe you're going to win.
"And they didn't do that. They didn't believe.
"I think we were all hoping - including myself - that they would be within a 10 point margin, that you could build on that going into the qualifiers.
"But it was disappointing, the level that they played at. A lot of things were disappointing. Disappointed with fitness levels. I was disappointed that they waited until the second half to really put the fight up.
In the context of their past 18 months, defeat to Dublin was probably inevitable.
The manner of it, less so.
By the time it emerged from
he Lilywhite camp that both Darroch Mulhall and David Hyland had defected in the wake of the loss, Kildare supporters were probably so numb as to not feel the minor venom of another sharp sting.
"I would argue that that's a reflection on them as well," said Earley, not sparing either player.
"The way I see it is, you can stay and you can fight or…
"OK, Darroch Mulhall wasn't on the starting team. He hadn't been considered.
"But David Hyland was. So I was a little disappointed that they went. Because maybe it indicates that it didn't mean as much as you would like from a Kildare man.
"That's what was disappointing."
Not so long ago, Earley played on teams that backed themselves to win Leinster but when they didn't, no-one reached for their passports.
"We had strong characters on that team," Earley points out.
"And as a leader, you're trying to influence and get your message across to the lads. These are young lads.
"Rolly Sweeney, Johnny Doyle...there's a couple of real leaders gone out of that team that would have influenced players in the past and that's probably where we're lacking at the moment."
Earley is not, however, so inclined to believe that Dublin's excellence will hinder and sabotage the upward movement of any pretender to their Leinster throne.
He points to Kildare's second comprehensive victory over Dublin in the minor Championship in three years as a sure sign that the disparity in quality just now can't persevere.
"I don't know if it's going to be the same way of the next couple of years," he outlines.
"I think Dublin have a golden era of player.
"Like, we could rattle off one to 20, they're all household names and they have All-Irelands.
"There's massive competition. But they're not going to be there in three or four years.
"The likes of Stephen Cluxton, the Brogans, Paul Flynn, Diarmuid Connolly...they'll always be competitive, but they won't have the golden era of player that they have now.
"I think that there's an onus, that the standards at county board level and at team level in the other (Leinster) counties have retracted a bit," Earley adds.
"It's up to them to bring that back up."
For now, salvation for Kildare is probably three still about Championship victories away, beginning - as if to further highlight their tumble from the fringes of the elite - tomorrow against a team they'll meet in next year's Division 3 of the League.
"And Kildare aren't a Division 3 side," Earley insists.
"They're not. I would like to think that, up until two years ago, we were a top eight side.
"I think if we get a run in the qualifiers, we'll see the real quality if Kildare.
"But I do know a lot of these lads and I do know that they've taken a lot of these beatings in the past and they have bounced back.
"They're strong mentally. The six day turnaround is going to be a big issue.
"They're in Tullamore, against their neighbours, who would love to take a skelp off us.
"So they have to be right for this. They have to have their heads right," Earley warns.
"And if they're not, I don't think they're going to come out of Tullamore with a result."