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Canavan exits Fermanagh full of admiration

By Declan Bogue

With Peter Canavan leaving the post of Fermanagh manager, he speaks to GAA correspondent Declan Bogue in an exlusive interview about his times with the Erne County, and how he has found it hard to say goodbye

DECLAN BOGUE: With you leaving the post, already it has been said that Fermanagh didn't have the players to match your ambition. How would you see that?

PETER CANAVAN: I was told two years ago that I was going into a county where the players weren't committed, that there was barely 20 players there to represent their county. Two years down the line, I found them to be fully committed, very ambitious as to where they wanted to go and what they wanted to win.

From the two years that I have been there I have seen some exceptional performances from some players. Some men who were thought to be over the hill played their best football for a long time for Fermanagh.

There are a number of young players that will be there for many years to come and we felt that we came within a kick of a ball of getting promoted.

I would believe that the team are good enough to be playing Division Two football. When you look at the quality of the teams that got promoted ahead of us – Monaghan and Meath – Fermanagh are not far behind them.

Yes, there are a number of older players coming to the end of their careers, but there are a number of newer players stepping up – Sean Quigley has had a very good year, the two Cullen lads and Ryan Hyde are ready to make an impact in senior football.

Eoin Donnelly has been our most consistent player over the past two years and as a result of that he's been at trials with a chance to represent his country this year.

The players are there, they are there to at least play football in Division Two.

DB: What were the main differences in going from club to county management?

PC: It is a step up, there is no doubt about it. There were unusual circumstances to begin with in Fermanagh.

For different reasons you had a number of players not involved but it's the extent of the backroom team that is involved, the work that goes on behind the scenes. You have to be there to appreciate it.

DB: Was there more that could have been done for Fermanagh to keep you?

PC: Different things that could have been a major help. I understand that there's restraints within the county as well. You read at the minute that the two teams that competed in the All-Ireland final last year are having problems securing things for their team. Fermanagh are no different.

I put my concerns to the county chairman, I have done regarding a number of things, but that's for them to work on.

DB: How did you build bridges from the divisions of 2011?

PC: First of all, we wanted to make sure the boys wanted to represent their county. The boys wanted to make sure that things were done right and they were prepared to do that, they were desperate to wear the Fermanagh jersey.

There was a bit of straight talking done at the start of the year, I gave them my plans as to what we intended to do, thankfully they bought into that.

In the two years, we lost very few National League games, there were a lot of times where we won matches and that builds confidence and morale.

DB: Was it hard to say goodbye to that group?

PC: When a bunch of boys are fully committed and give you everything, you become attached to them. But this group of boys were extremely difficult from the starting point in that there were a lot of bridges to be built. They were able to do that and they were able to bury the hatchet and overcome difficulties that they had with one another.

On top of that, no team should have to deal with the death of one of their team mates. I thought that the way in which this group of players dealt with that was admirable. I also felt that in terms of remembering their team mate and how they handled themselves on and off the pitch, likewise.

The boys themselves came up with different fundraisers to help to do what they wanted to do. It was of their own initiative.

Having spent that amount of time with these boys of course you build a bond with them, and seeing them improve and enjoying their football, which I would like to think every one of them did. It's not easy to draw a line under that.

You miss working with excellent people and thankfully I had great people there. Both the craic and the morale with the players, there was no shortage of characters with that group. Very seldom there was a training night that there wasn't a bit of craic.

That was very important as well, there was great team morale in that squad.

Of course you miss the banter and the craic that comes with it.

DB: What is your next move as a coach?

PC: I have no plans and don't intend to be involved with anybody.

Holy Trinity College in Cookstown (Canavan is a teacher at the school) have entered the college's competitions and have moved up a level to 'B' level for all competitions.

That's a massive step for the school.

I will be fully immersed in that.

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