When a bright-eyed Dermot Earley crossed paths with Kieran 'Geezer' McGeeney during a Railway Cup semi-final in Casement Park in 1999, little did he know how big of an impact Armagh's 2002 All-Ireland-winning captain would have on his playing career.
The pair swapped jerseys after their duel, a piece of memorabilia GPA CEO Earley has proudly kept until this day, before teaming up to represent Ireland in the International Rules for the following two series.
Losing possession at a key moment during the second test Down Under in ’01, Earley feared the worst but quickly made amends and robbed the Australians of possession and a post-match conversation with Geezer sums up his manic intensity.
"I was chatting him after and I was saying 'Jaysus I lost that ball and it could have been crucial, it could have decided the series' and he just shot back at me saying 'Yeah, but you got it back'. That was the sort of edge he had," Earley says.
They would reacquaint during Sarsfields' epic Leinster club semi-final trilogy with Na Fianna, with whom McGeeney played his club football when living in Dublin, later that winter but six years elapsed before they would meet again.
EXCITEMENT AROUND KILDARE
Geezer had barely hung up his Orchard boots when the inter-county management door knocked and Earley can vividly remember his reaction upon hearing the news from then Kildare chairman Syl Merrins.
"When Syl told me 'We have McGeeney', I nearly put the phone down straight away to ring Johnny Doyle and I said 'Johnny, Kieran McGeeney is coming to manage us'. It created a savage buzz," Earley recalls.
"One of the measures of the respect he had nationwide was that players were always wondering what he was doing because he always set the bar so high, whether it was the physical training or the way he played on the pitch.
"You always had an interest in what was going on up in Armagh as a result. He was this mythical figure and you heard stories of him buying a load of fruit every day to give him the edge and how he was always working hard for the small percentages."
THE FIRST MEETING
His first port of call was a team meeting in October '07, just days after Earley had been on a wrong side of a county final defeat to Newbridge rivals Moorefield but there would be no feeling sorry for himself while celebrations would cease on the other side of town.
"Usually you'd be gone missing for three or four days after a big derby game like that but everyone wanted to see what Kieran would bring to the table so all the Moorefield and Sarsfields players were there in Newbridge on that Tuesday night," he says.
"That night he threw it back on us and asked 'Why haven't Kildare been successful to date?' There was no real answer out there but it got you thinking. From the start he demanded an awful lot of us, he demanded a lot more of his leaders.
"He'd give myself, Johnny Doyle, Killian Brennan and Rolly (Ronan) Sweeney a harder time than others because his belief was that a team should be player driven and it's the players that drive it forward. If someone steps out of line the players put him back in his place."