McGrath loses two more as duo depart
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