Belfast Telegraph

Plenty of noise in Fermanagh, but little to say

By Declan Bogue

It's unfortunate that we have to analyse the theme, but the content of Fermanagh county board chairman Patsy Dolan's recent address to the county convention is another example of head-in-the-sand, blame-the-media laziness that has come to characterise these events.

Nobody appears to have learnt any lessons from the perpetual crisis-management that the county have been stuck in for the last decade, nor the divisions that were given considerable attention in the Jarlath Burns Report that examined the disastrous 2011 season.

When Peter Canavan departed at the start of September, he released a statement referencing those rifts as something that was holding the county back.

Dolan seized upon the theme, telling delegates: "This year we have seen yet another manager leave the helm citing lack of support, not from where one would expect – the players – but some nameless people who continue to sell the propaganda rubbish."

Canavan brought a series of long-standing issues to the board in late July after the Cavan defeat. He expected a follow-up call that addressed his concerns. A month later, nobody had thought to get back in touch.

That Canavan was left without even a phone call to sound out his intentions was poor leadership.

"Following the Championship, Peter Canavan stood down for reasons I cited earlier," Dolan says later. But it's only half the story.

Predictably, the address also includes a dig at the media when it comes to the appointment of Pete McGrath. "Although I didn't appoint the senior manager quickly enough for the press or our critics, we did I believe wait to get the best in place."

Dolan revealed there were six candidates for the role on October 7, but some of those candidates were completely unaware they were under consideration until they got a phone call some days later.

By his own admission, McGrath was asked on a Monday if he was interested, interviewed that Wednesday, and unveiled as manager the following night, November 7.

Why did they wait almost a month to approach him?

"Our county has a tendency to look to other counties to see how to do things, personally I never bought into this theory ... we are as good if not better than the rest so maybe it's the rest that should be looking at us."

This is plainly dispiriting. If a business is failing, then it is standard practice to study successful businesses and see what lessons can be applied. That's a fundamental principle of leadership.

Either way, it explains the underage record. Since 2003, Fermanagh have won one match at Ulster minor Championship level, and a couple at under-21. Three games out of a possible 23. It is an appalling record, and can only be improved by changing mindsets and attitudes. But in Patsy's world, everything is fine.

At under-21 level, Fermanagh do not have a coach in place and it seems unlikely Simon Bradley will continue as minor manager. In Tyrone, Feargal Logan has already ran a series of under-21 trials and his panel is being finalised and equipped with a personal weights programme and other training aids.

It is inconceivable the situation would be any different in Donegal with Rory Gallagher in charge and in Cavan, managed by Peter Reilly.

Elsewhere at Convention, it was admitted that Fermanagh did not field at the Buncrana Cup, the annual under-16 developmental tournament.

Yet Patsy had a different take on things, saying, "The development squads continue to do good work ... This will, I believe, produce fruits in the coming years."

Like the neglect of the under-21 and minor teams, there is a dereliction of duty to young players in the county.

Previous managers at this level have vented their frustrations with this writer, using phrases like "a shambles," and "a hamse." They feel that good young footballers can emerge from a school like St Michael's but immediately enter a void of uncertainty and malpractice.

With the retirement this year of Peter McGinnity from his job as Games Development Manager, Fermanagh could have made a statement about their ambition. It's understood that former county player Shaun Doherty applied for the job vacancy and you could imagine a man like Doherty making it his life's work to succeed, but he didn't get the job.

It's often said that the definition of insanity is to repeat the same mistakes and expect a different outcome. If so, then the collective mind of Fermanagh is dysfunctional.

The worst thing about this is at the very head of the organisation, they are trying to convince themselves and others that they have everything right, and will continue to put the arm over the homework.

"So maybe it's the rest that should be looking at us," says Patsy.

He can't be for real.

Belfast Telegraph


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