The Arles-Killeen player came to the decision last week after playing only one full game during the league but he says he hasn’t retired from county football and will be available again for selection next year.
“Things just weren’t happening for me,” he said yesterday (Tuesday), “and I made the decision to drop off the panel but I have no qualms with the management and I would never question their decisions. I just thought that I haven’t had a break in 12 years and I’ll be able to give a bit more time to the club now; I’m captain this year and that was in my mind as well.”
“Beano has given tremendous service to Laois but for the moment he has opted off the panel,” added Liam Kearns, Laois manager, “but like Joe Higgins and Tom Kelly you can’t close the door on a player of his quality.”
McDonald’s decision will come as a major disappointment to the county’s supporters as his scoring prowess, vision and match-winning ability made him one of the best players ever to wear the county colours. He first appeared on the scene in the ground-breaking, All-Ireland minor winning campaign in 1996 and he announced his arrival as a major prospect with a memorable goal in that year’s final win over Kerry.
He won another All Ireland minor medal the following year and then in 1998 went close to doing a three-in-a-row as Laois were beaten in the final by Tyrone.
Indeed that year he also played in the All Ireland U-21 final as Laois were beaten by Kerry and also made his senior debut against Westmeath in the Leinster quarter-final. In total he has played 39 championship games for Laois, with only Fergal Byron ahead of him in appearances, and has scored 5-53.
He enjoyed his best run of form in 2003, scoring a goal in the Leinster final win over Kildare and against Offaly in the replayed quarter-final, and his performances with Irish International Rules team that year brought him withing touching distance of landing an All Star.
A serious leg injury in the All Ireland qualifier defeat to Tyrone in 2004 was a huge setback but he still came back to play in 2005 and by 2006 he was back to his best again as Laois reached their third All Ireland quarter-final in four years.
Under Kearns, though, he failed to repeat his old form and despite featuring prominently in last year’s league he started in just two of the championship games. In this year’s league he was limited to substitute appearances against Mayo and Donegal before starting against Kildare in the last game of the campaign.
In other team news, experienced defender Aidan Fennelly is facing another long spell on the sidelines as he tore his hamstring again playing with Portlaoise last week. He’s going for a scan this week which should show the extent of the damage but having missed most of the league with the same injury, his prospects of playing in the early part of the championship appear bleak.
Stradbally’s Gary Kavanagh has also dropped off the panel after growing frustrated with his lack of game time while Donal Miller, who is recovering from a groin operation, is also off Kearns’ championship panel for the time being. Darren Strong, who is struggling with a hand injury, and Darren Hogan are also gone from the panel.
Noel Garvan, though, has resumed training having missed almost a year with an ankle injury but he still hasn’t participated fully and is also in a frantic race against time to play in the championship while the only addition to the 31-man squad is Ballyroan-Abbey’s Scott Conroy.
Laois lost to Galway by a point in a challenge match in Stradbally last Sunday with Cahir Healy, Tom Kelly and John O’Loughlin all impressing. Kelly played wing-back but Joe Higgins didn’t play as he picked up an injury playing with St Joseph’s in the ACFL on Saturday night. Laois travel to play Mayo in a pitch-opening in Ballyhaunis this Bank Holiday Monday and are scheduled to play Cork the following week before going on a four-day training camp to the University of Limerick on the weekend of May 14-18.
The panel in full is: Michael Nolan, Conor Gorman, Cathal Ryan, Mark Timmons, Joe Higgins, Cahir Healy, Tom Kelly, Darren Rooney, Padraig McMahon, Peter O’Leary, David Murphy, Rory Stapleton, Aidan Fennelly, Brendan Quigley, John O’Loughlin, Padraig Clancy, Kevin Meaney, Noel Garvan, Ross Munnelly, Brian McCormack, Billy Sheehan, Paul Lawlor, Colm Kelly (St Joseph’s), Colm Kelly (Stradbally), Michael Tierney, Barry Fitzgerald, Colm Parkinson, Paul Dunne, Donie Brennan, Barry Brennan, Scott Conroy
Filed under: Laois Football