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National Football League: Fermanagh bosses to tackle exodus

By John Campbell

The Fermanagh county board is prepared to grasp the nettle and deal with what have been described as “issues” in a bid to restore harmony within the county following the defection of several established members of the senior football team.

Officials were clearly shell- shocked yesterday when it was confirmed that a number of leading players had intimated they were leaving the squad.

Now GAA chiefs in the Erne county are understood to be keen to tackle grievances which the players are understood to have aired in relation to the county team management’s policies.

The next county board meeting is scheduled for April 6 but it is believed that the shock exit of the players will be a topic for debate at a meeting of the Management Committee which is normally held a week before the full board meeting.

A source close to the board confirmed last night that Fermanagh had been “rocked heavily” by the defections.

“We simply cannot afford to lose players of this quality, we have a small enough base from which to select as things stand. Obviously there has been resentment on some aspects of the manner in which the team is being run and it is important that we get to the bottom of this as quickly as possible,” added the source.

And he went on: “Nobody is clear yet exactly why the players have left but we would expect to hear their reasons outlined to us in some form or other shortly. No committee can deal with issues unless they are properly articulated.”

Speculation that player power was a factor in the walk-out has been defused — indeed, it is being made clear that the players who have taken the exit door have in fact turned their back on the squad with some reluctance.

The fact that last year’s team captain James Sherry, his brother Peter and Tommy McElroy are among these players is viewed with particular concern by Fermanagh officials given their exemplary service to the county over a number of years.

As speculation swept the county yesterday, Fermanagh officials conducted telephone conversations last night in a bid to defuse the situation.

Fermanagh are due to meet Kilkenny in Division Four of the Allianz Football League on Sunday in Freshford and although they will be expected to win this game irrespective of whatever team that manager John O’Neill decides to field, the longer term future of football in the Erne county is a matter of grave concern right now.

The team has two further games to play in the league against London and Clare before they begin preparations for the Ulster senior football championship in which they are due to meet Derry at Celtic Park on May 22.

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