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New efforts made to bring back Laois stars


Tom Kelly: quit in November

Tom Kelly: quit in November

Tom Kelly: quit in November

Pressure is mounting on a number of Laois footballers to reverse their decision to opt out of the county squad for 2008.

Tom Kelly, Joe Higgins and Chris Conway, three of the county's most experienced players, have not been part of the squad since they resumed preparations in November.

But in recent days there have been renewed efforts to coax them back after losses to Galway and Derry in the opening two league games.

The matter was aired at a Co Board meeting on Monday night when delegates, including the father of one player released from the squad, made their views known.

The Board has been urged to do everything in its power to entice the players back while one officer even suggested the use of a third party to help the process.

Laois manager Liam Kearns is known to have made a series of attempts to lure Kelly and Higgins back while Conway has also come under pressure this week to reconsider.

Of the trio, however, Higgins is understood to be the most likely to recommit to the cause in the coming weeks.

Conway said yesterday he thought he would be sticking to his original decision to withdraw from the squad.

"Later this year I'm taking a year out of school and I intend travelling. I have had an enquiry this week as to whether I would go back but I think I'll be sticking to my decision," he said.

Fergal Byron also retired while Kevin Fitzpatrick and Gary Kavanagh were deemed surplus to requirements when the squad came together late last year.

Laois had chances to win both their opening games against Galway and Derry but with league dates with Kerry, Tyrone, Mayo, Donegal and Kildare to come relegation is already a strong concern.

The loss of such experience has frustrated Kearns's attempts to mould young players into the set-up.

Most delegates were careful, however, to note in their comments that it wasn't a criticism of the management.

Arles-Killeen's Danny Brennan said he was speaking about the absentees in an attempt to help the management.

"There was a time, when Dick Miller was chairman, that he got players back to play when they didn't want to and we may have to try the same again," he said.

Miller himself suggested no effort be spared to persuade the players to return.

"There should be no effort spared to get those lads back. We've had the best of times ever in Laois football over the last few years and sometimes we can take it for granted."

Laois vice chairman Tony Walsh chipped in with an expression of fear that Laois could be returning to "the bad old days".

Gerry Kavanagh, the county's development officer and father of Gary said he was decidedly uncomfortably commenting on this but it is every manager's right to manage and selectors right to select. "I have a young fella who is involved with Laois since minor and he has been berated by the public and he has got text messages and phone calls but if he was told to be at training at 4.0am he would be there."

Football Board vice chairman Alan Langton suggested the potential use of a third party to bring the players back to the fold.

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