Review of the year – Fermanagh

1 A changing of the guard

KIERAN Donnelly came on board as Fermanagh Senior Intercounty Football manager before the 2021 season, succeeding Ryan McMenamin who had been involved for a number of years, first as assistant and latterly as manager. They endured a poor start to the league, but after that they seemed to get to grips with things and were in the mix for promotion from Division Three. A decent showing against reigning All-Ireland champions Tyrone reflected well on the Erne County, and while the Tailteann Cup didn’t go to plan, Kieran Donnelly has placed his trust in the newer members of the panel and it’ll be interesting to see how things go in the coming years. There’ll be retirements to come, but there’s enough young talent in the county to suggest they won’t fall down the ranks.

2 So close yet so far

IT was a productive season for the Fermanagh ladies, reaching the Ulster and All-Ireland finals, but they ultimately fell short on both occasions against Antrim. On the whole though, manager James Daly can be positive – Blaithin Bogue and Eimear Smyth are two of the most dangerous forwards in the province, while he’s set to welcome back Kinawley trio Roisin O’Reilly, Erin and Courteney Murphy, who departed from the panel last year. On the club front, Kinawley held off a late Derrygonnelly surge to make it five senior championship titles in-a-row, a remarkable achievement. It’s also worth noting the exploits of former Kinawley footballer Joanne Doonan, who is faring extremely well in her second stint playing Australian Rules Football.

3 The Gaels are back on top

ENNISKILLEN Gaels won seven titles between 1998 and 2006, a fantastic period for the club, but after that they drifted down the pecking order as their golden generation headed off into the sunset. It was only a couple of years ago that they were playing Intermediate Football in Fermanagh, but a new era of talented footballers have come through the ranks and they claimed the Senior Championship title with a deserved victory over Erne Gaels. It was arguably a lot more straightforward than expected – they got the better of the Division One champions by ten points – and they gave it a good rattle in Ulster as well, overcoming Cavan champions Gowna on penalties before losing out to an imperious Kilcoo side.

4 Donnelly calls it a day

FERMANAGH midfielder Eoin Donnelly stepped away after a decade of service back in January. He captained the side for large chunks of a stellar intercounty career, and while an Ulster Championship medal proved elusive, there were still plenty of moments for the highlight’s reel, including scoring a late winning goal in their surprise win over Monaghan in the 2018 Ulster Championship semi-final. Donnelly also captained Ulster to victory in the Railway Cup and played in Fermanagh’s biggest games of the last decade, including their defeat to Dublin at a packed Croke Park in the All-Ireland quarter-final. He’s still playing for Carryduff, where he lives, and it wouldn’t be a big surprise if he’s involved in some capacity with Fermanagh football a few years down the line.

5 A good season for the hurlers

IT was another good showing from the Fermanagh hurlers. They claimed the Division 3B title with victory over Longford by 2-18 to 1-17 in early April at Carrick-on-Shannon, the highlight of another successful season, while they also managed to stay up in the Nickey Rackard competition. Viewed with a wider lens, there seems to be something of a hurling revolution going on in the county with new clubs like Erne Gaels and Lisnaskea hoping to provide stiff competition for hurling heavyweights Lisbellaw who have dominated within the county unapposed for years.

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