Louth manager Pete McGrath. (Pic: Arthur Kinahan)
Louth manager Pete McGrath has confirmed the departures of Conall McKeever and Patrick Reilly from his panel, though Declan Byrne remains.
It was reported last week that all three players had left the set-up, however, while McGrath was able to convince Byrne into a change of heart, McKeever and Reilly have stepped away.
And, speaking to The Democrat, McGrath admitted that he was 'disappointed' by the departures.
“When you pick a squad of players, they are picked because you feel that they have the capacity to contribute at this level and both players who have left the panel have worked very hard this last number of months," he said.
“It is disappointing when players decide that they can't commit because it means that there are gaps to be filled and you are looking for players to come in.
“It's not ideal and I don't think it's ideal for the players either because at the end of the day, obviously, you cannot commit the time if there are issues there. But if it's that they aren't getting their places immediately, they should stay and battle it out.
“They felt they couldn't commit and I couldn't force them to. It is disappointing, but these things happen at inter-county level and you just have to get on with the job,” added McGrath.
On Byrne, who played no part in the loss to Cork last Sunday, McGrath revealed that the St. Mochta's man had been 'considering his future'. However, after a meeting of the pair on Wednesday, they came to a resolution with Byrne having returned to training on Friday night.
“He wasn't training on Tuesday night and he was considering his future. I met with him on Wednesday and we spoke for 45-minutes, and, to be honest, there was nothing major,” said the
“We all know that players can get a bit disillusioned at times and a chat can just put the thing right. With Declan, that's what happened, but with the other two, they just felt that they couldn't commit and there's not much I can do about that.”
McKeever and Reilly join Adrian Reid and Pádraig Rath from last year's panel in stepping away. Added to the injuries sustained by Jim McEneaney, Sam Mulroy and Niall Conlon, McGrath was asked if his job became tougher in the absence of such experience.
“It doesn't bother me very much. I'm not lying awake at night worrying about the people who have left,” he replied.
“Maybe if I had been the manager for a couple of years, the loss of these people would have seemed greater for me because they would have been on teams that I would have picked, but I'm coming in and there are now a lot of younger players who have been given game-time and an opportunity to be a part of the panel.
“I don't like losing any player, but if a player decides to go or if a player decides to retire, that's up to them. I'm more disappointed about the fact that Sam Mulroy picked up a bad injury and hopefully he'll be back for the championship. Niall Conlon had to have surgery on his arm there on Monday and Jim McEneaney is going to miss the rest of the league with a shoulder injury. I'd be more concerned about these people than those who have said that it's not for them.
“Even having said that, as team manager and part of a management team, we have to get the job done with the players who are there and that's what we have to concentrate on. We can't be distracted or put off track by people leaving or people who can't commit. The work goes on,” said McGrath.