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I haven't left Fermanagh for good: McCabe

By Declan Bogue

Shane McCabe has explained the reasons behind his switch from playing inter-county football for Fermanagh to returning to the Irish League after signing for Glenavon.

At the Lurgan club he will team up with manager Gary Hamilton, his team-mate from the Glentoran team that captured the IFA Premiership in 2008.

However, he is not retiring from Gaelic football.

"If Fermanagh need me in April or May time I will speak to them then, but the commitment required over the winter is four or five nights a week."

It may surprise many, how a sportsman can switch codes from an amateur sport to a semi-professional one as it requires less time and commitment, but McCabe's move illustrates the demands on inter-county athletes.

With his second child due in a matter of weeks and his day job with Towergate Insurance involving travelling all around Northern Ireland and Belfast twice a week, the playmaker was unable to continue his full-time involvement with the Erne men.

However, he leaves the team with glowing accounts of Peter Canavan's managerial abilities and the structures put in place.

"For me, it was top-notch. There was no stone left unturned, fitness-wise, conditioning-wise, strength-wise, it was taken to another level.

"If we had have got anyone else but Cavan – who proved to be very well organised – we could have stayed around a bit longer. The set-up is the complete package though. I hope Peter Canavan stays on."

The professionalism involved in training at inter-county level, including the focus on core stability, is something McCabe feels will benefit him.

"I have built up and become a lot stronger, my endurance – fitness-wise, my base is a lot stronger and I am in a lot better place than I was when I last played.

"No disrespect," he continues, "but (Irish League preparations) would not have a patch on the training you would be doing for an inter-county team."

He adds: "My touch might not be as good, but it will take a while to get that back!"

At present, McCabe is also studying a Strength and Conditioning course at Setanta College and certainly feels he can bring some skills into the Glenavon environment.

"It is an area I will be looking to get involved in," he said.

"It's an area that is becoming prevalent in most sports, not just in Gaelic.

"You have it in golf even with Rory McIlroy becoming bigger and stronger.

"Strength and Conditioning is becoming much important in every sport."

While on his soccer sabbatical he kept in close contact with Gary Hamilton, and his physical gains did not go unnoticed by the manager.

"Gary is a friend and he used to ask what I was doing. He has a good grasp of what needs to be done to get Glenavon to the next level.

"Any team that is fit and well-organised in the Irish Premier League, you will be there or thereabouts. There are maybe one or two exceptional players in the Irish League that Cliftonville had last year in Liam Boyce, Joe Gormley and Conor Devlin.

"If you can get that, not conceding goals in the last five or ten minutes – which you see a lot of teams doing and that's basically down to mental strength and physical fitness – then you can go places."

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