Laois senior hurlers must plan for their championship clash with Offaly on May 25 without Zane Keenan, after the Camross man was dropped from the Laois panel for failing to show up to training. After the final League game with Tipperary on March 23, the Laois squad was given ten days off to return to their clubs to train and play in two league games. When the squad re-assembled on April 1st however, Keenan failed to show, and after missing three subsequent training sessions, the Laois management took the decision to officially remove him from the panel.
Speaking to the Leinster Express, Laois boss Damien Fox stated the management’s position. “Zane is gone from the panel due to lack of commitment. I don’t know whether he lost interest or not, but after a week’s break (after the NHL) we went back training and he missed four sessions in a row, so we decided we’d had enough really, and the management took the decision to put him off the panel through a lack of commitment.”
Fox admitted he has spoken to Keenan since the decision was taken, but is upset that he had to go to the rounds of trying to track down the player when he has the already difficult job of preparing a team for the championship. “I spoke to him on the phone, and in all fairness, a county senior manager shouldn’t have to be ringing players to find out where they are and asking them to come to training, they should be ringing the county manager to tell him they can’t make training or whatever the case may be.
“Zane made no contact with me until the Friday night after he was dropped, and I explained the situation to him, and we were very amicable on the phone. I explained my situation to him and where I was coming from. This is the second time this year we’ve be down this road and I wasn’t prepared to go any further with it, I have to be fair to the rest of the players on the team. As much as I’d like to have him, and he’s a very talented hurler, if the commitment isn’t there, then there isn’t much I can do.”
Keenan has continued to play and train with his club since his departure, so it does not appear to be his intention to take a complete break from hurling this year. It appears, however, that the two could have been easily mixed, as Fox revealed that all players have been released for as many club games as possible this year. “The players have been released for four ACHL games and all their Leinster League games, so no player has been stopped from playing for their club.
“After the end of league, we gave them that ten-day period to go and train with their clubs and they would have had a (league) game on the 24th (of March) and the following Saturday, so they got two league games and they were allowed to train with their clubs as well, and the players were due back with us the following Tuesday night. I never heard from Zane for all of that week the players were due back, and most of the next week until we spoke on Friday, so he was away for nearly three weeks without any contact with us.”
Asked as to whether there would be any chance of Keenan returning to the panel before the game with Offaly, Fox offered only a small glimmer of hope. “The door is never closed, but I went down to look at an U-21 match on Saturday in Enniscorthy, and I expected all of the lads who have been around the senior panel to be there, the likes of Zane Keenan and Daryl Dooley and Brian Stapleton, but none of them turned up.”
“It’s going to take a lot to change it to be honest. How many times can you make excuses for a player?”
Keenan himself was unavailable for comment on Monday, and it remains to be seen if he wishes to make a statement on the issue, or instead draw a line under it and focus his energies on helping Camross win back-to-back Laois championships’. He had nailed down the left half forward position on the Laois team, starting every game in the league and notching up a total of 0-12 in those five outings. Having struggled in the early rounds, he appeared to be finding his feet at intercounty level, scoring three points in each of his last three games. Keenan’s Camross club mate Daryl Dooley has also withdrawn from the panel.
Turning his attentions to the Offaly game, Damien Fox admitted he doesn’t expect any more players to be called up to the squad before that clash, although he has been boosted by the return of Noel Costelloe, after the Portlaoise man had withdrawn from the panel last year due to work commitments.
“I think it’s probably a bit late to be going back to have a look at some lads, the 25th of May is the date of the game with Offaly, and it’s only six weeks away, so it’s probably a bit late to be bringing somebody in now.”
“I’m not saying no, but unless somebody jumps off the page at me then that will be probably be it. What I would like to do is get a few younger lads in and have a look at them, because there’s a great commitment here at the moment, the players are working fierce hard and they’re always on time for training, so if some of the younger fella’s saw that they might buy into it.”
Despite being allowed a panel of thirty players, Laois currently has only twenty nine in the squad, so despite the current climate, there is still a position on the panel available for Keenan, should an agreement between management and player transpire. It doesn’t look likely at the moment, but six weeks is a long time, and there could yet be a few twists and turns left in this story before Damien Fox leads his side out to face his native county in the first round of the Leinster championship.
Provisional Laois panel for the Leinster championship: Goalkeepers: Patrick Mullaney; Tadgh Doran. Defenders: Brian Campion, John A Delaney, Brendan McEvoy, Darren Maher, Conor Dunne, John Prior, Matthew Whelan, Eoin Browne, Michael Bermingham, Canice Coonan. Midfielders: Joe Fitzpatrick, Joe Phelan, Dermot McGill, James Walsh. Forwards: Owen Holohan, Willie Hyland, Noel Costelloe, Shane Hanlon, John Brophy, Tommy Fitzgerald, David O’Mahoney, James Young, John Rowney, Simon Norton, Joe Dooley, Colin Delaney, Niall Holmes.
Filed under: Laois Hurling