2023: Cause for optimism in Erne County

A look back on some of the Fermanagh memories of 2023…

1 Promotion the high point for Kieran Donnelly’s men

FERMANAGH will play Division Two football in 2024 following a highly productive league campaign which saw Kieran Donnelly’s side finish top of the table with six wins from seven games in the third tier. Unfortunately for the Erne County, their apparent hex in finals seemed to continue with a defeat to Cavan. Nonetheless, it was a supremely promising league campaign. They lost out to Derry in the first round of Ulster and will have been disappointed to lose to Laois in the preliminary quarter-finals of the Tailteann Cup given their aspirations of going all the way in the competition.

2 Derrygonnelly reassume control in Fermanagh

THEY don’t take losing lying down in Derrygonnelly. Just like they did in 2021, they bounced back from the previous year’s failure (for want of a better word!) to win the Fermanagh Senior Championship, on this occasion overcoming Erne Gaels, whose 42-year wait for the senior title goes on, in the showpiece decider. The Harps have now won seven of the last nine senior championships in Fermanagh, but they couldn’t manage to leave a dent in Ulster, falling short of the required standard against Kilcoo. Still, they’re the senior champions and that’s not to be sniffed at. At Intermediate level it was Teemore who came up trumps while Lisnaskea did the business in the Junior Championship.

3 Anger at hurling proposals

A STRING of Fermanagh hurlers went to the press to show their dissatisfaction with the hugely controversial proposal, which was later withdrawn, that counties were fewer than five adult hurling teams would be locked out of hurling leagues and permitted only to play at Lory Meagher level at championship level. Five counties in total would have been affected, including Fermanagh, and to say it went down like a lead balloon would be putting it very mildly indeed. Common sense prevailed as the proposals were later dropped but you have to think that it’s only served to add to the sense of alienation among the less traditional hurling counties.

4 Near misses for Fermanagh ladies

THE Fermanagh ladies gave a good account of themselves this year but they’ll have been disappointed not to go all the way in any of their respective competitions at adult level. They could count themselves unfortunate to lose a Division Four semi-final against Leitrim, lost out to Down in the Ulster Junior football decider having led by two points at the break, and their All-Ireland campaign came to an end in agonising fashion as they lost to a single point in a Junior semi-final showdown with Limerick. On the club front, Kinawley’s dominance shows no sign of abating as they clinched a sixth successive senior championship title. Aghadrumsee did the business at Intermediate while Junior honours went the way of Belcoo.

5 Changing of the guard

THREE highly experienced Fermanagh players have stepped aside from the intercounty game ahead of the 2024 season, namely Ryan Jones, his brother Conall and Sean Quigley. Ryan and Sean are particularly big losses as they have been stalwarts of the team for more than a decade – indeed, Ryan made 148 appearances at senior level in the green and white. Quigley cited work commitments for his reason for withdrawing his services while Jones told Gaelic Life earlier this month that he wasn’t able to give the full commitment anymore, particular as he works in Leitrim (speaking of which, he’s embarking on a new challenge as he’s set to coach Leitrim’s u-20s next season). Anyway, while it’s a blow for Fermanagh it gives young lads an opportunity to step up and show what they can do.

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