By Katrina Brennan
IT’S six years since Erne Gaels last featured in the Fermanagh senior final and on that first Sunday in October 2016, a young Ultán Kelm stood behind the goals, well for the first half anyway, before a steward moved him and his friends on.
“The three of us (Ben McCann and Gareth Deery) were standing behind the goals and we were put out at half time,” laughs Kelm, as he recalls the event.
“One of the stewards came up and moved us. You’re not supposed to be behind the goals apparently” said Kelm, who was there to “get the footballs, get a good view and be closer to it.”
This Sunday, 22 year-old Kelm will not have to worry about being away from the action. He, along with his two brothers Oisin and Aogan are at the centre of this Belleek team.
Having already bagged a league medal this season and coming off the back of winning the intermediate championship title last year, the next stop is senior honours.
“At the start of the year we set out where we wanted to be. We wanted to win the league and ideally win the championship but look, we’re just taking it a game at a time.
“It’s not good enough getting to a final, we want to go on and win it now” says the Fermanagh GAA Coaching and Games Development Officer.
Kelm, the second youngest of the five Kelm children, is a flying machine. GPS stats proved he is the fastest player Erne Gaels have and indeed he may well be one of the fastest players in the county.
It’s this speed and ability that made him such an attractive proposition to Australian Rules side Freemantle Dockers. This time last year, word spread of Kelm’s move Down Under but by the end of November a reoccurrence of a hip injury had staved off the ‘dream’ move for the Belleek man.
While it was a massive disappointment, Kelm rehabbed and got back playing for Fermanagh in the Tailteann Cup earlier this year and has been a real driving force for his club. But, he admits the desire to play professionally in Australia is still there.
“I haven’t fully shut the door on it. At the minute I’m focusing on the club, I don’t want to be thinking about it, there’s enough distractions. Whenever championship is over and I’ve a bit of time off, we’ll see what happens.
“It’s what I wanted to do, so it’s not going to fall off the cliff that easily. It’s still the opportunity of a lifetime, it’s still the same as it was whenever I got the call three years ago.”
The hip injury, which put a spanner in the works for Kelm, is now something that the attacking wing half back has to manage;
“It’s been a big learning curve for myself, trying to keep myself fresh” explained Kelm. “I would’ve been naive when I was younger trying to do too much, too soon, then you’re standing on the sideline. I’m learning all the time with it, just manage it. I’ve came off in a few games to keep myself fresh.”
This weekend, Kelm will make his routine stop at Lilley’s for his coffee en route to Brewster Park as the club endeavours to bring the New York Cup back to the border village for the first time since 1981.
If Enniskillen Gaels are going to win, they’re going to have to curb Kelm’s influence on the game. But he knows what they are up against and that these opportunities don’t come around too often;
“Any time we play them it’s 100 mile an hour stuff. The last game we played them in the league was basically a shootout with them and we were lucky to come out the right side of it that day, so, expecting something similar.
“It’s massive, when you’re growing up playing for your club this is what you dream off. Playing with your brothers and your close friends, the boys you grew up with.
“Winning the pinnacle of Fermanagh football is what you set out at the start of the year to do and you wouldn’t be doing it, if you didn’t think you could.
“We got a taste of it last year with the intermediate and what it done for the community and what it felt like at that final whistle, coming together with your friends and your brothers, it is massive.”