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‘I understood the rule that when you finished minor and moved into next year you could play senior’

When the Laois hurling team to take on Wexford was named on Saturday morning last, one name that immediately jumped out was that of David Dooley.

The young Rosenallis man, listed at corner-forward, was the only player to be making his debut.

For numerous reasons it was noteworthy: he was in his first year out of minor, he hadn’t even played senior for his club yet and he was following in the footsteps of his father Seamus who played for Laois throughout the 1990s. 

However, the Laois management were soon informed that Dooley couldn’t play.

The rules on age grades have a stipulation that to play senior inter-county “a player shall have celebrated his 18th birthday prior to January 1st of the championship year”.  At club level, players can play adult a year earlier.

As Dooley, who has also played rugby for Leinster and Ireland at underage level, only turns 18 this year it means that he is thus ineligible.

That ruling came as news to the Laois management and the player himself who had been training with the squad since being called in.

However, it’s not the first time that it has been applied to a Laois player. In 2018, Matthew Byron from Courtwood was on the senior football panel under John Sugrue but had to be withdrawn from the panel after being included for an O’Byrne Cup game.

Speaking after the loss to Wexford on Sunday, Laois manager Seamas ‘Cheddar’ Plunkett spoke of his disappointment on the ruling.

“First of all I have to say, David is a fantastic young man. He was a great Laois minor last year and from a very proud Laois family.

“He was invited into our panel – made a huge impression on everyone, on players and management and clearly has serious ability.

“I understand that the rule is – and anybody I know or checked on this – understood the rule that when you finished minor and moved into next year you could play senior.

“I understand the rule you can play senior club but you can’t play senior inter-county. That rule is the 1st of January, you have to be 18.

“I’m not going to go into the logic of the rule that you can play club hurling at senior level but you can’t play intercounty.

“I don’t know anybody that knew that rule … somebody brought it to Croke Park’s attention and it was brought to our attention this late in the game.”

Plunkett said that Laois accepted the rules and predicted a bright future for Dooley in the blue and white.

“Of course you’ve got to play by the rules and we will but I will just finish and say that I think there is going to be a bright future for David.

“He’s a fantastic young man with great character and I wouldn’t have expected anything else to be honest with you and I’m looking forward to seeing him be part of the team in the future.

“We will certainly be keeping him close to the heart of our team and I think he will have a major role to play in Laois hurling in the next 10 or 15 years.”

SEE ALSO – Talking Sport Podcast: Glass half full or half empty after first outing for Laois hurlers?

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Steven Miller is owner and managing editor of LaoisToday.ie. From Laois, Steven studied Journalism in DCU and has 14 years experience in the media, almost 10 of those in an editorial role. Husband of Emily, father of William and Lillian, he's happiest when he's telling stories or kicking a point.