Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Divisions in Fermanagh camp were too deep for Peter Canavan to be a success

Peter Canavan

The Canavan years began on a gloomy McKenna Cup Sunday, the ones where everyone is glad to escape the cocoon of the hearth for some fresh air and the first annual taste of football.

It was an eventful game against Antrim.

Seamus Quigley seemed to be everywhere, dashing down the tunnel in a punch-up at one stage, before stealing the show with a volleyed finish to the net.

There he was on the sideline, Peter Canavan, the same boots he had worn in All-Ireland finals. Wearing a Fermanagh coat. For most, he had them at hello.

Not everyone, however.

That much is evident not only in the salty remark he made in his parting press release, when he said: "With a clear vision and a united county committee I have no doubt the players will respond in a positive manner."

Canavan was a unity candidate.

One that would sufficiently excite the warring factions and rally the support. The mischievous side of his personality clicked straight away with the panel.

Last year, with promotion from Division Four secure after an away win over Carlow, Paul Ward made his way up the team bus accompanied by remorseless slagging. Canavan (pictured) joined in but his face dropped when 'Canavan's Way' – an instructional coaching video that Canavan made in his early years – blinked into action and the joke was turned on him.

That's the level of trust and the spirit of fun that management and players brought to their hobby.

That's how, when the team were grieving for the loss of Brian Óg Maguire, you could see the same suffering on Canavan's face.

But Canavan could do nothing to mend the splits in the county board so evident from the findings of Jarlath Burns' investigation into what went wrong in 2011.

If the county board weren't caught asleep on the job, they might have kept Canavan.

Now, they are left in the same situation, scrambling around for a manager.

A few years ago, Cavan realised they were caught in a similarly self-destructive cycle of boom and bust and appointed no less than Peter Quinn to chair a committee that could plot a way forward.

One of their key findings was an investment in coaching and strength and conditioning work.

Before Canavan's appointment, some of the younger Fermanagh players never had any proper supervision or guidance in their strength and conditioning – a prerequisite of the modern game.

Cavan got it right and now Fermanagh have multiple successes at underage level.

So why are prominent Fermanagh GAA people off trouble-shooting in other counties when there does not appear to be the same appetite for naval-gazing within?

The fundraising techniques of the Erne county board belong in the 'is there nothing to be said for another raffle?' era, while nobody has any more money left to buy a raffle ticket and they lie in rolls in the car boots of those that are meant to sell them.

Tough times lie ahead, no doubt.

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