Laois senior footballers will begin their O’Byrne Cup campaign this weekend without the services of veteran forward Brian ‘Beano’ McDonald (above), as the Arles Killeen man hasn’t been invited to join the panel.
His last involvement with the Laois seniors was in the loss to Down in last year’s qualifiers, and despite having been part of the squad last year, he received no notification from the senior management about coming back on board this year. “I didn’t hear anything since the year gone by, and I didn’t drop myself off of it (the panel). I wasn’t asked back in and it’s up to them whether I will be, you can finish your career yourself any time and that would be everyone’s preferred way, but there are a few lads that haven’t joined back yet, Darren (Rooney) is on his honeymoon, and he will probably be involved when he’s back.”
In spite of the apparent snub, he has not ruled the possibility of returning to the panel and would be open to an invitation. “I’m going back training with the club next week and I’m going to get as fit as I can and if I get a call then I would be open to it but I haven’t heard anything yet.”
McDonald’s absence from the panel leaves just four players from the 2003 Leinster final winning team - Aidan Fennelly, Padraig Clancy, Darren Rooney and Ross Munnelly - still involved with the Laois senior football panel, and Fennelly won’t be available for the foreseeable future due to his involvement with the Portlaoise footballers.
If this is to be end of the line for McDonald, it will bring to an end a career of one of the most talented footballers the county has produced. Having risen to fame with the Laois minor side which claimed the All-Ireland title in 1996, he won another All-Ireland in 1997 before missing out on the three in a row in 1998.
He also won a Leinster U-21 medal with Laois in 1998, before playing a starring role in the 2003 Leinster campaign, scoring one goal and setting up another in the Leinster final win over Kildare.
A horrific broken leg, suffered against Tyrone in 2004, saw him miss a large chunk of the following year and although he dropped off the panel for the 2008 championship, he has featured for Laois every year since his debut and has been a firm fans favourite over the years.
Two other members of the 2003 Leinster-winning team - Noel Garvan and Tom Kelly - aren’t with the panel at the moment but couldn’t be contacted for comment. Laois manager Sean Dempsey, meanwhile, says that McDonald isn’t part of his plans at the moment but that the panel is always open to players who impress with their club.
“Beano isn’t with us at the moment but we won’t be ruling anybody out. The club league will be starting before our league is over so anyone that is going well with their club will be considered.”
Rory Delaney, Leinster Express