First of all a huge thanks to those players who are calling it a day. Lesser men would have jumped ship years ago, and these lads have gone through some really dark years with the county. Real commitment is found in counties like Laois where the chance of glory is remote. Anyone would train all year with the Kilkenny's and Kerry's where All-Irelands, holidays away etc. are all but guaranteed. These lads can walk away with their heads held high, and I'm delighted they will have the memory of being part of the panel that finally got a big win for the county against Offaly. It may have been a small win in the grand scheme of things, but for us it was massive.
As for where it leaves Laois, well these guys were not going to go on forever. Joe Fitz is an anomaly in that he just seems to get better with age and there is no doubt he will be a huge loss. Age and injury have taken a toll on a lot of these guys and in my view it's the right time for some of them to take a step back. For sure Cheddar now has a huge task to build a competitive team with a young panel, but no better man to have the reigns. It's up to our younger players to stand up now. Ross King, Picky, Paddy Purcell, Neil Foyle and more have what it takes to be real leaders for us now, and we will need them. I expect Joe Campion to be back with Laois at some stage, a break away from hurling for a bit may be the best thing for the lad. Then we have the lads fresh from minor coming in, Mark Kav, Fonzi, Ryan Mullaney and Leigh Bergin have plenty of potential so it will be interesting to see how they adapt to the senior set up. Darren Maher is also a huge addition and in his current form should nail down the full back position and perhaps release Healy to a position more natural to him.
It's certainly not all doom and gloom, but patience and realistic ambitions may well be needed for the coming year.