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A day of sadness as Canavan quits Fermanagh

By Declan Bogue

Fermanagh will spend the winter searching for a new manager after Peter Canavan informed the county footballers on Monday night that he would not be staying for the 2014 season.

It's understood that the Tyrone legend met with the 2013 squad prior to the monthly county board meeting, when he informed them of his intentions to step down.

It was confirmed later at the county board meeting that Canavan would not activate the third year of his three year term, originally agreed in November 2011.

That arrangement always carried the proviso that it would be subject to an annual review. Last year, Canavan brought a number of issues to the attention of the county board and after a period of consultation it was agreed that they could deliver on certain issues.

One of those was understood to be the prompt paying of player expenses.

Speaking directly after defeat in last year's qualifier series to Cavan, Canavan gave a hint that he was not satisfied when he said: "There's things outside of our control that people are going to have to look at as well, but overall the experience I have had since I've came in has been a very positive one...you couldn't fault (the players') dedication or their desire and I'll not have a bad word to say about them."

He continued: "There's a lot of potential there, a lot of men keen to do well and to make progress for their county and that's good to see. There's ambition there, so I would like to think they are heading the right way.

"Again, we'll look at our position at the end of the year, that's what I said when I came in, I've done that with my own club and I'll be doing it here.

"Certainly there's areas that need to be addressed and things that we are going to have to look at, but it's not a decision to be made now, that's for sure."

Turning his attention to the back-up structure that a county team needs, he went further, "they do need all the support they can get. There's a number of issues need to be addressed in that. Are the players getting every opportunity they can to be the best they can be? Look, we'll look at our own end of things, we'll speak to the county board and we'll see how things go.

"We said at the start that as far as I was concerned we were going to review our position at the end of the year, it may be a three-year term, but we would be looking at things and if we weren't happy with things at the end of the first year, that we weren't happy that things were moving in the right direction, then we weren't going to stay for the sake of staying.

"That was the agreement at the start, so that's where it is now."

However, this past season, similar issues became a concern once again, with further frustration over a lack of support from the administrative structure.

In recent weeks, Shane McCabe has signed a soccer contract to play for Glenavon in the Irish League and veteran goalkeeper Chris Breen has retired.

With key figures Barry Owens, Ryan McCluskey, Marty McGrath and James Sherry all over 30 and having had their share of injury problems, the immediate future may look bleak for the Erne county.

Canavan took on Fermanagh at a low ebb, after player walkouts left then-manager John O'Neill struggling in the Division Four campaign of 2011, before miserable Championship defeats to Derry and London.

Under the Errigal Ciaran clubman, Fermanagh extricated themselves from the bottom division in 2012 and came within a kick of winning a second successive promotion this year.

However, their Championship record will remain a disappointment, with three defeats to Cavan and one to Down, with a dramatic win over Westmeath their only success.

Speculation will now surround the vacant post. Trainer Kieran Donnelly may be proposed to step up into the role of manager, although a long shot may be Fermanagh's first ever All-Star, Peter McGinnity, who recently stepped down from his role as county development officer and has led home club Roslea Shamrocks to successive club Championships in 2010 and 2011.

The Fermanagh county board are known to be in a degree of financial difficulty. Club Eirne – the fundraising body formed by supporters of the county's football and hurling teams – has felt alienated over past seasons, even going as far as releasing a statement in 2011 to note that they would cease all attempts at fundraising.

Recruiting a new manager will now be a difficult task for the board, who will look to have a candidate in place for early November, when the county team are permitted to return to training.

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