Phelan, who started at corner-back in last summer’s famous championship win over Dublin and against Tipperary in the All Ireland quarter-final, was Laois’s vice captain in 2019.
Phelan played no part in Laois’s recent Walsh Cup campaign and Eddie Brennan confirmed the news at this morning’s press briefing ahead of next Saturday’s opening round of the Allianz League at home to Wexford.
He said: “Joe Phelan has stepped away this year and is that the end of the line for Joe? I don’t know he said he is out of the group for this year.
“He is a guy who was hugely committed to us last year but he is at an age where he is moving on in life.
“Joe’s contribution to the group was immense but the show goes on. And it will go on long after Eddie Brennan, Niall Corcoran and Tommy Fitz move on.
“The most important thing is that the players are empowered to drive this thing forward. Management teams come and go but the fundamentals of the group have to stay the same.
“Whatever group is out there on the pitch under the band of the Laois senior hurling team, they have to represent a unity, a spirit and a pride in pulling on their county jersey.
“If that is there, Laois will have no problem going forward. If they sustain that they will kick on and move forward.”
Having captained Camross to Laois hurling glory in 2017 when he was also named senior club player of the year, Phelan has been a consistent performer over the last couple of seasons with Laois.
His decision means Laois will be on the lookout for new corner-back options.
Clough-Ballacolla’s Lee Cleere, who was outstanding last season, had a health setback last summer and is still on the comeback trail.
Mountmellick’s Donnacha Hartnett featured at corner-back in the successful Joe McDonagh Cup campaign while Allan Connolly (Ballyfin), Liam Senior (Clonaslee), Daniel Comerford (The Harps) and Frank Flanagan (Portlaosie) have all got game time in the full-back line in the Walsh Cup as well as the long-serving Matthew Whelan.
Among Laois’s other absentees for the 2020 season will be Cha Dwyer, Ben Conroy and Stephen Maher who have opted off the panel while Eanna Lyons and Mark Kavanagh are out for the foreseeable future because of injury.
One player who has returned, however, is Cian Taylor. The Portlaoise man missed last year’s campaign because of injury but is back training with the squad and is likely to be an option in midfield or attack.
Laois take on Wexford in O’Moore Park on Saturday at 7pm.