Plunkett bullish about Laois future
Laois hurling manager Seamus 'Cheddar' Plunkett believes the days of "walking into" a Laois jersey are well and truly gone.
Plunkett has overseen significant improvements in the fortunes of Laois hurling in the last couple of years which included a rare championship win over neighbours and rivals Offaly, and is looking to continue in that vein in 2016.
However, he must do so without a host of senior players.
Long-serving quintet Joe Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fitzgerald, John A Delaney, Brian Stapleton and James Walsh have all called time on their inter-county careers.
And while Darren O'Meara is back in the fold, others like Zane Keenan, Conor Dunne and Dayne Peacock can't join the panel due to work circumstances.
Despite the blows, Plunkett remains bullish about Laois' future. "The retirements weren't a (surprise), it just so happened that a lot of them retired at the one time and it happens they are all Laois hurling warriors, certainly in my time there and we'll miss that experience hugely," Plunkett admitted at the launch of the Bord na Móna-sponsored Leinster competitions that kick off in the first weekend in January.
"We have been hit hard, there's no doubt about that, but there are a lot of good technically gifted young hurlers in Laois and it gives opportunities for those players to put their hands up and say, 'I am demanding a Laois jersey here and I want to hold on to it', and that's the type of dynamic we are trying to build in the team.
"It's a new year, players will fight for their position and their jersey. The chance of just walking into a jersey is well gone at this stage. Players recognise that so we are looking forward to 2016 in that respect."