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Revamped club scheme can boost ambition in Fermanagh

By Declan Bogue

If anyone was in doubt about the validity or need for the revamped Club Éirne fundraising group in Fermanagh, then Sunday's result in the St Paul's minor tournament would be the latest example. Erne Gaels, the club of Rory, Ronan and Raymie Gallagher, along with Shane Lyons of more recent vintage, were beaten 5-16 to 1-3 in the prestigious competition by Donaghmoyne of Monaghan.

Now, pointing out that fact is not being harsh on Erne Gaels. They have the same problems that every other club faces in rural areas with a falling and migrating population.

But that scoreline was merely the continuation of a trend where Fermanagh teams have accepted their fate at all levels of under-age football.

In 2011, the county minors won a game, defeating Derry under the promising manager Mark Henry. They had not won a single Championship game since 2003. When Henry looked for more support for the following season, he was turned down.

In under-21 football, Fermanagh have an appalling record, with only a couple of Championship wins to point to over the past two decades.

Next spring, Fermanagh face Tyrone in the Ulster Under-21 competition. In Tyrone, they already have training programmes in place and are trimming their squad.

A few weeks back, Fermanagh were hastily assembling their under-21 squad. Half a dozen players were asked along from one high-profile club. Only two accepted.

They may have their own reasons, but we suspect one of them is because they are well aware of how far behind they are already.

People can make any case they want for this kind of systematic failure, but they cannot argue with results. That is why, when Ger Treacy asks anyone to join his Club Éirne group, those who believe in a hand-up and not a hand-out row in behind him.

The new Club Éirne aims to raise expectation and ambitions within a county that is too often accepting of mediocrity. In order to do that, it requires cash. It will act as a fundraising sub-committee of the existing county board.

For some time now, influential people within Club Tyrone have been offering their services, and so their very own Mark Conway will be guest speaker at the relaunch next Tuesday night, December 16 at the Enniskillen Hotel.

All interested parties are welcome. Doors open at 7.30pm.

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