Thursday 17 January 2019

Fennelly: It's hard to get lads to play

LAOIS manager Brendan Fennelly has left the door open for himself to remain as manager despite their 34-point SHC qualfier humiliation at the hands of Cork.

Even before Saturday's 10-20 to 1-13 defeat to the Rebels, the O'Moore's boss identified an absence of dedication from players as a massive problem. He invited 30 players to attend his first meeting as manager and 13 turned up. It was a glaring portent of things to come.

"From the very start it has just been very hard work getting players in to play for Laois," said Fennelly. "You can't tar all players with the same brush. Certain players are very committed to the Laois cause but others aren't committed.

"Some feel they are in with the Laois team because they have to be rather than wanting to be. We had a reasonably good run in January, February and March but once the club scene started, players were training for Laois and their clubs and picking up knocks.

"Players were saying to me that they didn't want to come in from the beginning and the minute you took a player off or didn't pick a fella they left the panel. When you talked to them after they would say they weren't really enjoying it."

Blaming the manager is the easy option, and the wrong one, he argued. "The reality is that I am the 13th manager with Laois since the mid-90s and you would make a very good hurling team out of all the managers that were there but it is not a manager issue. I hate finishing a loser and I would certainly meet with the board to see what can be done."

ANTRIM'S senior hurlers were full value for their 2-25 to 1-19 winning margin against Westmeath in their SHC qualifier at Casement Park on Saturday, despite the midlanders' third-quarter comeback which saw the margin reduced to just a goal.

At the break, Antrim had already one foot in round two, leading by 2-16 to 1-9.

However, Westmeath, with Brendan Murtagh to the fore in attack, rallied with great spirit in the third quarter. Indeed, they only registered one wide in the entire second half and they outscored the winners by nine points to two (the second a monster free from full-back Cormac Donnelly) to trail by a mere goal (2-18 to 1-18) after 50 minutes.

With a home tie against Carlow next up on Saturday (the second part of a double-header, with last Saturday's rivals renewing acquaintances in the big ball game), Dinny Cahill's men will be firm favourites to progress to the next phase of the back door.

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