NOT for the first time, Keith Reilly has answered the call at Fermanagh club Maguiresbridge.
Reilly, who was the county’s minor manager in 2015 and 2016, has never strayed too far from his native club and is back for a third stint in charge, and the hope is that he can get them across the line in the Intermediate Championship.
They lost out in last year’s decider to Enniskillen Gaels, albeit they were outsiders, while they also came out second best in the 2014 and 2016 finals.
Reilly is looking forward to the challenge after being outside the set-up for the last 12 months.
“The club went round and round in circles and eventually got back to me. I was involved prior to becoming minor manager, then I came in and helped out with Cathal Murphy in 2018. I was manager on my own in 2019, then I took a year out last year.
“They found it difficult to find someone and got some younger players who weren’t able to play to take the reins. They weren’t able to continue this year, and I was approached by a few players and I stepped in and said ‘sure we’ll see how it goes.’”
Maguiresbridge’s main issue over the years is that they’ve had to wait for their many dual players to finish up with their hurling commitments with Lisbellaw and Fermanagh before they’ve been able to give their total commitment to football.
Reilly said that last season’s split-season solved that problem, and the hope is that things will never return to the way they were in the past (the model was recently approved at the GAA’s annual Congress to come into effect in 2022 entailing an intercounty season being run off before the exclusive club window opens).
Reilly, who coaches young children across Fermanagh as part of his day job, is keen to emphasise having so many dual players in the club is something positive as he thinks there are wider benefits to be had from playing hurling.
“I thought they performed really well last year – the camp was probably happy enough to maintain their intermediate status even though they lost the final.
“For the first time in a number of years, county hurling didn’t impact on the club season and that definitely benefited the club.
“In normal times we would’ve struggled with numbers until the county hurling was over, but we had the luxury last year of having at least 25 players training consistently. From what I could see on the outside it definitely boosted team morale.
“I work for Fermanagh GAA as a coaching and development officer, and I’m a great believer in the hurling even though I’m primarily a football man.
“I think the skillset that hurling brings can only benefit those who do play football – I’d always say to any young hurler that you have to be able to play off both hands, and if you don’t develop that in hurling you’re not likely to develop it in football.
“There’s also the speed of the game, and there’s more skills involved. I’ve often said that the players who are consistently playing well for Maguiresbridge are some of the top hurling players in the county.
“The proof is in the pudding and we have dual players who are at a county standard in both football and hurling – lads like Ciaran Corrigan and Daniel Teague. They are involved with Fermanagh senior footballers and got to a Lory Meaghar final with the hurlers last year, so it’s definitely something that benefits them.”