Earley expected to line out as Juniors take on Louth

TOMORROW evening the Kildare junior footballers will begin the defence of their provincial crown when they take on Louth in St Conleth’s Park, the same opening fixture as last year.

TOMORROW evening the Kildare junior footballers will begin the defence of their provincial crown when they take on Louth in St Conleth’s Park, the same opening fixture as last year.

No doubt Lilies boss Tony Kelly would take a similar result this time round. In late May 2011 Kildare signaled their intent, hammered the Wee men 2-14 to 1-8 in Newbridge.

Of course things have changed since then. Early this year the powers that be decided that junior teams will no longer be ‘second teams’ so to speak so players that played senior championship for their clubs or their county in 2011 are not eligible to play for the juniors this year.

The new rules ensures a massive change for Kildare and indeed they only have one player involved from last year and that’s Kilcullen’s Jamie Lambe, so in essence Tony Kelly is re-building and starting from scratch.

“It took us three years to build up the team to win a Leinster and get to the All Ireland final last year. We have a whole new panel this year, a whole new team and a young team, mostly made up of players who are under 23 so it will be tough on us,” Tony Kelly told the Leinster Leader this week.

Injuries too have made things even tougher on Kelly in the run up t Wednesday’s provincial opener. Star forward Seamus Hanifin is facing a race to be fit to face Louth due to a hip injury, while Confey’s Mossie McCann is also a doubt. Moorefield’s Gareth Duffy picked up a rib injury in a Senior Football League encounter against local rivals Sarsfields, while a number of players have also been tied up with exams of late.

“To be honest our preparations have been very disrupted over the last six weeks. We only had twelve fit players at times due to injuries picked up at training and during club games. When we get some players back to fitness we seem to lose four or five more so it hasn’t been easy,” admitted the Confey man.

The Lilies played Tipperary in a challenge match in Hawkfield last Wednesday and prevailed by three points, while they also played Mayo twice, Galway and Tipperary again on another occasion.

Ballyteague’s Seamus Hanifin, the team’s regular free taker, scored no less than seven points against Mayo and should he lose his fitness battle it will be a major blow to the team.

However, one boost is the fact that senior star Dermot Earley, pictured, could line out for the Lilies tomorrow night as he completes his comeback from his cruciate injury.

Kelly is expecting a much bigger test from Louth compared to last year when the Lilies ran out nine point winners. Louth’s experience and Kildare’s inexperience could be the difference says the manager.

“I’m not sure if Brian White is playing with Louth this year but either way we’ll be up against it. I think they have eight players left from last year and could have as many as five from the senior team that played Kildare in the league in Drogheda. So in truth it really will be a senior team versus a junior team,” explained the Kildare manager.

After winning the Leinster crown last year expectations this time round will, no doubt, be high but Kildare will be up against it tomorrow evening. The Lilies have won eight Leinster Junior Football Championships since their first in 1927 and the journey for the ninth starts tomorrow. Throw in in St Conleth’s Park is at 7.30pm.

Kildare Junior Panel May 2012

William Clinch (Grange).

Ian Farrel (JTB).

Cathal McNally (JTB).

Daniel Flynn (JTB).

Nicky Conlon (Rathangan).

Darren Barker (Kilcullen).

Mark Kelly (Monasterevin).

Conor Feeney (Confey).

Thomas McCann (Confey).

John O’ Neill (Confey).

Aidan Dunne (Robertstown).

Derek Nolan (Athgarvan).

Barry Molloy (Ardclough).

Andrew Conway (Ardclough).

Robbie Dunne (Clogherinkoe).

Colm Fagan (Rathcoffey).

Eamon Fitzpatrick (Kilcock).

Graham Waters (Raheens).

Seamus Hanafin (Ballyteague).

Cian Bolton (Eadestown).

Colin O’ Shea (Milltown).

William Burke (TMH).

Jamie Lambe (Kilcullen).

Joey Kehoe (Confey).

Gareth Duffy (Moorefield).

Mark Donnelly (Sallins).

Emmet Hyland (Castlemitchel).

Barry Lawlor (Eadestown).

Dermot Earley (Sarsfields).

Shane Darcy (TMH).