KANE Connor says it was a privilege to don the Fermanagh jersey for a decade – but felt that he had no other option but to call it quits after a difficult 2022 season on a personal level.
The Belnaleck man believed his efforts on the training pitch warranted significantly more game-time than he actually got, but their manager Kieran Donnelly wasn’t convinced and Connor found himself on the periphery of the panel.
It was difficult for Connor to come to terms with as in previous years he’d been a regular starter, and he’s now made the tough decision of leaving the intercounty panel a decade after making his debut under Peter Canavan in 2012.
Connor said: “I always said I would pack it in when I stopped enjoying it, but this season was a struggle, I didn’t enjoy it one bit.
“I’m not throwing the dummy out of the pram and I’m long enough in the tooth to recognise that you’re not going to get into the team if you’re not putting in the effort, but I was frustrated because I felt I was doing everything I could and still didn’t get my chance.
“I got on with it despite disagreeing with a lot of the things that were said and done, but that’s neither here nor there now and it was time to go.”
Connor says he initially welcomed the appointment of former Fermanagh player Kieran Donnelly as the new manager in September 2021. However, it soon became apparent that he to the forefront of Donnelly’s plans. To a degree he understands Donnelly’s thinking – that there were younger players who needed experience – but it left him a frustrated figure.
“It’s not like we fell out as such. When he came in, I agreed with the decision due to his track record and the fact he’s a Fermanagh man, but the longer the year went on, the less I enjoyed it.
“It’s a difficult job and we have a seriously young team, so it was never going to be an easy challenge, but where we differed is that I felt that it’s important to keep the experienced players around as well.
“He had his mind set on picking other fellas and I tried to show it wasn’t affecting me. I kept the head down but it obviously wasn’t good enough so I thought it was time to move on.”
Connor has felt mentally refreshed since leaving the panel and has kept himself busy in a sporting sense between club duties with Belnaleck and playing on the local soccer circuit with Enniskillen Gaels. Looking back on his Fermanagh career, he admits it’s disappointing they didn’t pick up any silverware, but there were still many good days and representing the county was an honour in itself.
“It’s mostly good memories, like our Ulster Championship semi-final win over Monaghan in 2018 and playing a league final in Croke Park against Armagh. I’ll always remember those games.
“It would’ve been great to finish up with a bit of silverware but it was a privilege to represent the county, and I can still look back and say at least I give it a go and that’s all you can do.”
“I’m playing with Enniskillen Town and I’ve had six or seven games under my belt, it’s a different world from intercounty football. It’s a lot more laid back and there’s not as much commitment involved. It was also great to get back playing with Belnaleck after the intercounty season was wrapped up, I felt a weight off my shoulders and there’s nothing like playing matches.”