Hurling

Bonds Of Club And County Intertwine For Many Fermanagh Hurlers

Bonds Of Club And County Intertwine For Many Fermanagh Hurlers

Fermanagh GAA players or supporters don't get many trips to Croke Park, which makes tomorrow's Lory Meagher Cup final between the Erne hurlers and Louth a somewhat bittersweet occasion.

One of the fascinating elements of tomorrow's clash is that Fermanagh only has one senior hurling club, St Patrick's Lisbellaw. The bonds of club and county overlap with the Fermanagh hurlers.

Last year, Joe Brolly captured the strong Lisbellaw presence in the Fermanagh side in a tweet.

Thirteen of Fermanagh's fifteen who beat Cavan in the Lory Meagher last season represented Lisbellaw, with a rake of Lisbellaw men on the bench.

Speaking ahead of the match yesterday, Conor McShea who started in midfield that day, was very positive about the development of hurling in Fermanagh. He remembers the Brolly tweet but says the teamsheet didn't tell the full story.

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'There might be two or three names on that team sheet that aren't from Lisbellaw but may have played for Lisbellaw before, our goalkeeper being one,' he said.

Tomorrow will be McShea's first time playing in Croke Park, and he'll have the luxury of doing it with players he's gone to war with, both in the green and white of Fermanagh and Lisbellaw.

'It's boys you've grew with, playing hurling. Myself and one of the other lads were up on the pitch yesterday just pucking about. It's massive for the club so it is, and we're just really looking forward to it.'

Around the time of the Brolly tweet, the then-Fermanagh manager Sean Duffy was quite critical of the investment in hurling north of the border.

'I'd love to see a full-time coach in Fermanagh, a full-time hurling man. In the schools doing purely hurling,' he told Balls.ie.

The mood music around Fermanagh hurling is much more optimistic ahead of tomorrow's Cup final, as Fermanagh seek their second Lory Meagher win. Waterford man Joe Baldwin took over Fermanagh and his passion for the game has been infectious. There are also signs that the game is growing at grassroots level. There are now eight hurling clubs in Fermanagh and there was even a minor club final contested this year. Meanwhile footballers like Ciarán Corrigan and Danny Teague are also involved with the hurling set up. Here's how McShea explains the challenges for club hurlers in the county.

'I suppose there was only really two club going. If there was ever one club winning everything, then the other club might not have been so keen to field a team. But eight clubs are going now, the boys are getting plenty of hurling. I can't really see a reason for it not going ahead for the future generations.'

The Lory Meagher Cup final will serve as curtainraiser to the Kilkenny-Waterford All-Ireland semifinal and can be streamed on TG4's youtube channel at 3.30pm Saturday.

Dylan Ryan

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