Smith and Stapleton out as Fennelly denies Hyland exit talk

Laois senior hurling manager Brendan Fennelly has denied speculation that Willie Hyland has left the Laois senior hurling panel, but has confirmed Brian Smith and Brian Stapleton will not be involved for the rest of the year.

Laois senior hurling manager Brendan Fennelly has denied speculation that Willie Hyland has left the Laois senior hurling panel, but has confirmed Brian Smith and Brian Stapleton will not be involved for the rest of the year.

It was believed Hyland had walked away from the Laois panel after a training session last week, but Fennelly said that wasn’t the case. “That is not the state of play at all, Willie just had to leave early during training last week.” It was believed the Clough-Ballacolla man had fallen out with Fennelly, but the manager’s assertion that he is still involved will be well received, as Laois face up to a hugely difficult qualifier draw.

The senior hurlers were to train last night (Tuesday) as the prepare for a clash with Cork on June 18, but they will do so without Brian Smith, who has decided to leave the panel and spend the summer in America. His withdrawal comes at the worst possible time for Fennelly, as Brian Stapleton suffered a broken collar bone in training last week, leaving the manager’s options in the full back line threadbare. To alleviate some of the pressure, however, Brian Campion has returned from the hand injury which ruled him out of the loss to Antrim.

With Smith becoming the latest player to walk away, following in the footsteps of Tommy Fitzgerald, John Purcell and Chris Murray, it has been a nightmare season for the senior hurlers. Despite the promise shown in early outings in the Walsh Cup, losses to Carlow and Down in the league, along with Antrim in the championship, has seen the season suffer setback after setback.

Speaking of the season he has experienced to date, Fennelly felt there was a build-up of little problems which lead to the current scenario.

“In general I thought we had a good league, but it was disappointing to lose against Antrim. Little things went against us with injuries and things like that, but we have Brian Campion back now.”

Sticking with injuries, Ger Reddin is also struggling to shake off the ankle problem which he suffered in the final round of league games against Kerry in Tralee. He resumed training last week but Fennelly admitted he called on the Castletown-Slieve Bloom to finish early as he was still showing discomfort in the joint. Eoin Reilly has had his tonsils removed also, and will be unable to train for another week or so.

Having drawn Cork in the qualifier draw, however, Fennelly knows it will take a herculean effort from the players to advance past the Rebels. “They (Cork) were the strongest team in the draw. You have Westmeath, Antrim and Carlow on one side and Cork, Laois and Offaly on the other side. The only plus is that it is a home game for us so hopefully we will have a good crowd.”

Laois will continue their preparations for the game in the coming weeks with practice matches against a Kilkenny selection and Galway selection. Brian Stapleton (above left), in action here against Limerick, will miss the rest of Laois’ championship campaign having broken his collar bone in training last week