Laois boss fumes at fixture makers
Laois senior hurling boss Brendan Fennelly has lashed out at the timing of his side's Leinster championship opener against Antrim on Saturday.
"We have five players in the thick of third-level exams at the moment, it's very unfair to slap a big match like this right in the middle of them," he fumed.
"I don't think they would do this to the likes of Kilkenny or Tipperary. It's like they (administrators) don't give a damn about players from weaker counties."
Fennelly said the fixture presents particular difficulties for one of Laois' star men, Willie Hyland, who played a vital role in helping Limerick IT reach the Fitzgibbon Cup final this year.
"Willie is sitting his finals in Limerick at the moment, that's very serious for him, it's going to decide his future," Fennelly said. "He has exams all through this week and then has more next Monday and Tuesday.
"In the middle of all of that, he has to try and fit in a big game. To give players that kind of schedule indicates a lack of respect for them."
Fennelly said another of Laois' students wouldn't play in a challenge against Cork last Sunday night -- the Rebels won by 14 points -- because he was starting exams the next day and feared he might get injured.
But the Leinster Council said last night that Laois officials were present when this fixture was originally agreed and had made no complaints either then or since.
"This game was originally fixed for next Sunday but Antrim asked us to move it to Saturday because their footballers are playing next day," said Leinster secretary Michael Delaney.
"Laois footballers are playing the following weekend and, at the time, their officials were keen not to have both senior teams involved because of the possibility of a clash for dual players.
"Our other preliminary round hurling game (Carlow v Westmeath) was originally due this weekend and was moved back a week but only because both counties agreed to a change and requested it."
Laois have other problems ahead of Saturday's game -- serious injury doubts over full-back Brian Campion and centre-forward Ger Reddin.
Campion got a nasty cut between his fingers in the last round of the league that has not healed and Fennelly described his chances of lining out against Antrim as "50-50."
And Reddin, who has bucked the national trend by returning from Boston this season to aid the county cause, is also very doubtful with an ankle injury that will need an 11th-hour fitness test.
Fennelly has already had a variety of personnel problems this year. Defenders Mick McEvoy, Darren Maher and Cahir Healy, all championship starters last summer, have moved to England.
Laois have since leaked forwards at an alarming rate, with leading attackers Tommy Fitzgerald and John Brophy dropping off the panel, Zane Keenan not committing to it and Chris Murray now out with a back injury. But Joe Fitzpatrick's return to full health is a boost.
Laois finished in joint-third place in Division 2 with Antrim this season, beating the Saffrons 0-20 to 0-16 in March when Fitzgerald, Brophy and Murray were all starters.
However, Fennelly pointed out that "Antrim had a man sent off with 25 minutes to go so that result will have little bearing this time. I'd expect there to be just a puck of a ball between us now."
The winners play Wexford in a Leinster quarter-final on May 29.