Earley's nightmare behind him
Earley sees finishing line in sight as he puts the worst of his injury nightmare behind him
DRIVING away from county training last Tuesday night, Dermot Earley could be forgiven for feeling like a young rookie with the world at his feet, as opposed to the thirtysomething 'comeback kid' he is.
For the first time in some 18 months, he was back playing ball. Taking part in a full Kildare training session -- or 80pc of it, at any rate.
"I was absolutely delighted leaving Newbridge," he enthused. "It's little steps like that, that's all it takes. I know I've done the work in the gym and done the rehab. It's about getting the confidence back in the knee. It felt good (on Tuesday night) and I'll need an awful lot more of that because, realistically, it was probably my first bit of football in a year-and-a-half."
Earley and his midfield colleague/rival Hughie Lynch have embarked on the same rehab programme in recent months, cajoling each other on the long and twisting road back to fitness from that most dreaded of injuries, a torn cruciate ligament.
The Sarsfields clubman, whose decorated championship career dates back to 1997, has been doubly unlucky in that he's attempting a comeback for the second time. He first damaged the ACL in his right knee during the 2010 season, valiantly tried to play on that summer before surgery became the only option ... and then last spring the 'curse of the cruciate' struck again.
He hadn't even resumed running before disaster revisited Earley on his own stairway, of all places. And no, he insists, it wasn't a case of rushing back - simply bad luck.
"I talked to (surgeon) Ray Moran specifically about it because when it happens, you want answers really," he said. "He told me it was a one-in-a-thousand case where it (the new cruciate) just didn't knit properly, the graft didn't take, and it was only really a matter of time before it was going to happen. Luckily enough, it happened on a stairs, not on a football field.
"I was due to go running the following week. I was just going up the steps at home and felt a little niggle. It didn't buckle on me but I felt something; I got it scanned and it turned out it (the ligament) wasn't there any more."
And the second comeback?
"The main thing is you don't rush it," he explained, "because it's amazing how much you come on in a month. When I look at where I was at the start of December to where I was at the start of January, and to the start of February, it's amazing."
Earlier this week, in his new Evening Herald column, Dublin hurler Conal Keaney revealed how he is doing 25 hours in rehab and training every week, as he battles back from a similar affliction.
"As regards hours-wise, I've never actually sat down and totted it up. Being older than those lads, you have to be mindful of the body," Earley pointed out.
"Mine wasn't specifically cruciate, there were other issues in there that I had to be careful of, so rest was as important as being in the gym. I know I've done the work. I've been in and out of the gym in the last year-and-a-half more times than in my whole career."