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Cheddar Plunkett steps down as Laois manager

His second stint in charge ends with Laois maintaining their Division 1 status but being relegated from the Leinster Championship.

Seamus 'Cheddar' Plunkett.
Seamus 'Cheddar' Plunkett.
Image: Evan Treacy/INPHO

SEAMUS ‘CHEDDAR’ PLUNKETT has stepped down from his role as Laois senior hurling manager after a two-year second stint in charge.

Plunkett returned as Laois boss in 2020, having previously held the reins between 2012 and 2016.

This season, however, Laois were relegated to the Joe McDonagh Cup after losing all five of their games in the Leinster championship.

In a detailed statement released firstly to RTÉ this afternoon, Plunkett acknowledged the work that needed to be done in order for Laois to navigate their way through the Joe McDonagh and become competitive in Leinster, and he suggested that work would best be led by a fresh face at the helm.

“There is a job of work to be done to bring Laois through the Joe McDonagh championship in 2023 and up to the levels of competing at the Leinster Championship round-robin competition in 2024,” Plunkett said.

“This is a two-year project at minimum and will require further development of the panel and integrating some of the recent U20 players as well as clearing up some injuries, and I feel that it would be best served by a new management team taking over now and bringing this job of work to fruition.”

Laois maintained their Division 1B status in the league with their only competitive victory of the season against Antrim in their penultimate fixture and Plunkett said that “the fact that the team will still play in the top tier of the National Hurling League again in 2023 will be good preparation for the Joe McDonagh championship that follows.”

He also expressed his frustration with his second spell in charge, which was blighted by both Covid-19 and an unfortunate run of injuries to key players.

“Stepping away now will allow CLG Laois the time to appoint a new management team in time for the local championships and to check in on all club players.

“Looking out on the Leinster hurling final recently and looking at both teams thinking what if either of these teams were missing half of their outfield key players in this game – how would they perform and what would the result be?

“Against Kilkenny in this year’s championship game in Nowlan Park, Laois were missing seven starting outfield players through injury: Willie Dunphy, Picky Maher, Podge Delaney, Roddy King, Diarmuid Conway, Ben Conroy and John Lennon, with Podge and John being our team joint-captains, and against Galway two games later were still missing seven starting outfield players.

“I think it would be tough for either of the Leinster finalists to withstand that body blow and survive, let alone Laois. And this continued right to our last championship game when we were trying to patch players up to get out on the field.

In that context I’m hugely thankful to Laois players for their resilience and their efforts throughout the two years but especially this year. Indeed it was very encouraging to see a full panel of 40 players fully committed to training for the last round of the championship against Westmeath when all injured and rehabbers were included, and I feel that this player commitment augurs well for the immediate future of Laois hurling.

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“The round-robin format of the Leinster Hurling Championship is now a very different and ruthless place with teams trying to put as many scores on you as they can in order to ensure they keep their own score difference in best shape and secure the knockout places,” Plunkett added. “If you are any way vulnerable in a game they will go after that vulnerability and rightly so.

“But what starts out as a big challenge for counties like Laois becomes altogether more difficult when you are missing that many of your core players and teams need to put scores on the board to ensure their championship qualification. Against that background I am very grateful to my management colleagues for giving everything they could possibly give to find performances and momentum, and get crucial results.”

The outgoing manager concluded: “Notwithstanding this I’m happy that over the two years we maintained our Division 1 league status against all the odds, but obviously also disappointed as a longstanding and unbending Leinster hurling county to lose our Leinster Championship status this year.

“Having said that sincere congratulations to Westmeath for maintaining their status and to Antrim for stepping up there and I wish them the best of luck for next year.

“In conclusion I would like to wish the senior team and future Laois management the very best in 2023 and beyond and I thank the team again for the support and respect shown to me and the management team.

“I felt really honoured that the players asked me to get back aboard but I feel I have done my part for Laois hurling now and it’s time for others to take it forward.

Finally, I can’t let the weekend pass without offering heartfelt sympathy from all Laois hurling people to the family and friends of Damian Casey and to the Eoghan Ruadh and Tyrone hurling teams.

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