Stafford's departure brings Garden leave to six
Published 12/01/2016 | 02:30
The retirement of a fourth long-serving Wicklow footballer has brought to six the number of players from his 2015 squad that Johnny Magee won't have available to him this season.
James Stafford has joined Alan Byrne, Paddy Dalton and Paudge McWalter in calling time on his inter-county career.
Stafford's retirement was confirmed by Wicklow GAA over the weekend just a few days after McWalter's departure was announced.
He has been one of the county's most influential players over the last decade.
The quartet were involved in some of Wicklow's biggest successes in recent years - from the 2008 Leinster SFC victory over Kildare (the county's first championship win in Croke Park) to the trio of home qualifier wins over Ulster opposition in 2009.
With Paul Cronin and Tommy Kelly - who both featured in last summer's championship defeat to Meath - withdrawing, McGee reckons some 21 players have now left the squad since 2013.
Magee admits that he can empathise with recently expressed sentiments from other county managers with less successful counties about the difficulty in persuading players to commit.
"Paul has a young family and can't commit, Tommy is similar, he can't commit," the Wicklow boss explained.
"We're hoping we can turn that around. I'm going into my third year, one as a selector, one as manager and I think 25 players have gone. Four of them we let go ourselves last year.
"Retirement, emigration, players travelling, inability to commit. It's a huge turnover."