It has been a circuitous route to this stage of his career for Camross hurler Joe Phelan.
He first burst onto the scene over a decade ago with a Camross side which blitzed Portlaoise in the 2007 county final. Back then, he was a promising corner-forward with a lethal eye for a goal.
His career eventually took in some time in the USA, and he is back now, working as a teacher in Camross and establishing himself as a mainstay at club and county level.
Despite his success at club level and his experience within the panel, he was still surprised to receive a phone call from Eddie Brennan last week to tell him he was the new vice-captain of the Laois senior hurlers. “Yeah, it was a huge honour to get the phone call today, it was a great phone call to get and a great surprise, I wasn't expecting it.
“I'm just looking forward to working with Paddy now and pushing on, and achieving good things during the year.”
It was a great phone call to get and a great surprise, I wasn't expecting it
Quiet by nature, Phelan hopes to let his actions do his speaking for him this season, and he doesn't feel like he needs to alter his game, or his approach, after being appointed vice-captain. “I don't think so, you just do your job to the best of your ability and hope they all row in behind you.
“A captain is someone you want to follow out onto the field, and to know that they will give 100%, and I know that Paddy will do that, and that's all you want out of your captain and that's what I'll try to do as well, just set a good example for the rest of lads. We'll all row in together and see where we go.”
Phelan has some captaincy experience, having been joint captain with Zane Keenan of the Camross team which won the 2017 championship.
This time though, he is a deputy, and he joked that he will happily let Paddy Purcell carry most of the functions of the captaincy for this year. “Yeah, I was joint captain with Camross a couple of years ago, and it went well. Paddy has the big honour this time, so I'll let Paddy do a lot of the ploughing!”