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New Erne chief targets revamp to boost title hopes

By John Campbell

The only county never to have won an Ulster senior football title has been dealt something of a setback in its bid to end a famine that has spanned decades.

Fermanagh have often been regarded as the Cinderella side of provincial football here but of late, under the tutelage of former Down boss Peter McGrath, the Ernemen have sprung to prominence.

But it would now appear the team's efforts to capture the Anglo-Celt Cup for the first time could be undermined by what are regarded as shortcomings in relation to the Erne county's Centre of Excellence at Lissan, just outside Enniskillen.

With the pitches there prone to flooding and the absence of an up-to-date weights room, there is a growing feeling within the county that this could hamper real progress.

Fermanagh officials, led by newly-elected chairman Greg Kelly, intend fronting up to what they view as major issues.

Retired schoolteacher Kelly has scarcely had time to take his seat at the top but he has certainly lost no time in outlining what he sees as priorities.

"I would love to see Fermanagh win an Ulster title, I want to see the Lissan Centre of Excellence issues tackled, I believe the time is right to further develop Brewster Park, Enniskillen and I want to see the Feile na nOg flourish in the Fermanagh, Cavan and Monaghan areas," states Kelly, who has given outstanding service to the county over a long number of years.

He has undertaken to give vibrant leadership with Phil Flanagan as his vice-chairman.

County board spokesman Pauric McGurn confirms perceived deficiencies at the Centre were highlighted at this week's County Convention.

"There would seem to be a lot of bad feeling in relation to aspects of the Centre and that's something that the county board is keen to address," reveals McGurn.

"There are improvements needed and they would need to be effected sooner rather than later. We are all conscious of the magnificent Centre of Excellence which Tyrone have at Garvaghey and this shows us what can be achieved.

"We might not be able to match that but there is an urgent need for this matter to be addressed."

Obviously the cost factor could potentially prove a stumbling block but McGurn sounds a note of encouragement on this front.

"The fund-raising arm within the county, Club Eirne, has already provided money and indicated that it might be able to raise significant funds on an annual basis between now and 2020," he says.

"This would certainly be a huge help in carrying out refurbishment at Lissan," adds McGurn.

"There has been a suggestion that the county squad could go back to training at different club grounds but I don't think that would be feasible when you look at what is happening in other counties.

"Last year Fermanagh made a big impact in the All-Ireland Championship when our run was only halted by Dublin and this year we were very unfortunate to fall victims to Mayo when we conceded a penalty following Aidan O'Shea's spectacular dive."

Manager McGrath has already said that he feels there is the potential within his squad to deliver an Ulster title, although the subsequent loss of some players could make this goal rather more elusive.

Belfast Telegraph

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