McGrath loses two more as duo depart

Mid Louth Independent - - SPORT - JOHN SAV­AGE

TWO more play­ers have opted off the Louth panel as Pete McGrath pre­pares his troops for a tricky Le­in­ster Cham­pi­onship opener against Car­low on May 14th.

Dun­dalk Gaels’ de­fender James Ste­wart and Oliver Plun­kett’s mid­fielder Conor Early have de­cided to take a step away from the squad in the wake of a dis­ap­point­ing Na­tional League cam­paign for the Reds.

Both play­ers were af­forded lim­ited game time and it brings the num­ber of de­fec­tions from McGrath’s set-up to four fol­low­ing the de­par­ture of Con­all McKeever and Pa­trick Reilly in Fe­bru­ary.

McGrath also nearly lost De­clan Byrne at that point, but the St Mochta’s man had a change of heart af­ter dis­cus­sions with the man­ager.

McGrath was al­ready op­er­at­ing with­out ex­pe­ri­enced mem­bers of Colin Kelly’s 2017 panel, in­clud­ing Padraig Rath, Paraic Smith, James Califf and Derek Crilly.

‘James Ste­wart rang me last week and for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons he wants to take a step back from the squad at the mo­ment,’ McGrath re­vealed. ‘Conor [Early] is go­ing to the States in the sum­mer so he’s ruled his­melf out to.’

The Down na­tive has placed his faith in youth since he as­sumed the hot­seat and he has called up two more young for­wards to his squad this week with St Mary’s at­tacker Daire McCon­non and Mat­tock’s Aaron O’Brien due to re­port to Darver last night (Mon­day).

There was also some pos­i­tive news on the in­jury front with all four long-term ca­su­al­ties winning their race to be fit for the Car­low clash.

McGrath re­vealed: ‘Dar­ren Marks is back in full train­ing af­ter missing the Clare and Meath games. The other three - Jim McEneaney, Sam Mul­roy and Niall Conolon - are do­ing some work too. Sam should be ready for full con­tact soon. Jim’s is a shoul­der so you have to tread care­fully be­fore bring­ing him back to full con­tact.

‘But at the mo­ment the three of them are con­tin­u­ing their re­hab and bar a re­lapse in the next few weeks, touch wood they’ll be okay. Match fit­ness will an­other thing be­cause none have played much foot­ball over the last few months.’

McGrath ad­mit­ted that the April club pro­gramme has im­pacted at­tempts to ar­range chal­lenge matches, but he does hope to fix one for Wed­nes­day week.

Pete McGrath takes shel­ter dur­ing the Dun­dalk Gaels v St Mary’s match at The Ram­parts on Sun­day. Pic­ture: Ken Fine­gan

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