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Lilies clinging to Earley hope

THE Kildare management is refusing to rule out Dermot Earley from playing some role in next Sunday's All-Ireland SFC semi-final, despite negative reports that his latest knee injury setback will prevent the All Star midfielder from togging out against Down.

Selector Niall Carew has also dismissed speculation that Earley aggravated his existing cruciate ligament injury during the opening minutes against Meath, clarifying that subsequent keyhole surgery was to clear up another problem in the same knee.

For all that, the prospects of Earley starting against Down would appear remote.

DAMAGE

"It wasn't the cruciate," Carew has stated. "It was just a small bit of damage. We just repaired that. If it was the cruciate he would be gone, but he has a problem with the cruciate as well but that wasn't the problem against Meath - it was another problem in the same knee.

"Dermot might not need surgery with the type of cruciate injury he has. Even though it is gone, he can build up (muscle) around it. It depends on the make-up of the body. Some lads can build it up and that will do the job.

"If it was gone completely he wouldn't be able to play. Full stop. But the fact it is still hanging on with some fibres there and scans show that.

"With some lads it just caves in, but Dermot was able to play a few league games and get back for the championship. But that's not our concern, it is the new injury and time is against him."

The Kildare selector also revealed that Rob Kelly - another player engaged in a long-running Battle of Wounded Knee - is back in contention for the Down game.

The Straffan clubman has undergone two operations to sort out a knee ligament injury that first flared up last January, ruling him out of any championship involvement thus far.

"Rob is absolutely flying and is a live option for us," Carew explained.

"He's fully recovered and playing well in in-house matches. We're thrilled with his progress and the fact that he is available is a massive boost. He's a quality player with a bit of freshness about him as well. We won't hesitate to use Rob if he continues to show the same form as last year."