LIAM MACKEY: Club before country for Fenlon

It seems to be a case of Hibernian before Hibernia for Pat Fenlon.

Since moving from the League of Ireland to the SPL, the former Shels, Bohs and Derry boss has begun to feature in speculation as a future manager of Ireland, a position which could arise sooner rather than later if Giovanni Trapattoni isn’t able to inject fresh energy into his team’s World Cup qualifying ambitions.

But Dubliner Fenlon, briefly back home to promote EA Sports FIFA 13 Ultimate Team, insists that, right now, he’s not looking beyond the job of work he has with Hibs.

“I think every manager has aspirations to manage their country,” he concedes but then answers in the negative when asked if he would apply should a vacancy arise in the near future. “No, I think the job where I am at the moment is a great job and we’ve only started. It is a real good club, a fabulous club. I go into training and the structure is there, everything is in place to kick it on and move it on. We can attract 15,000 to 16,000 on a regular basis if we do well. A lot of clubs down south can’t do that. It’s a job I’ve got my teeth into and would like to remain in for a long time.”

As Hibs prepare to travel to Motherwell tonight looking to cement their place in the top six, Fenlon is still smarting from the goal that wasn’t given in the Edinburgh derby last week, the match officials having somehow missed the fact that Leigh Griffith’s stunning free-kick had crashed down off the underside of the bar well across the goal-line.

“It was probably further than Lampard’s in the World Cup,” says Fenlon, fully aware of the potential cost to the club of one of the season’s most blatant refereeing howlers. “The fact is, fortunately, we’ve still got games to play. We’ve got three big games to try and get in that top six, which is really important for us this year. I’ve said before that refs should be allowed ref the game — they have taken too much away from them. Let the ref ref, if he gets them wrong, he gets them wrong. But stuff like goal line technology is probably the one aspect where I would interfere with the game.”

The top six might be the immediate goal but going all the way in the SPL is a challenge of a very different order, according to the Hibs boss.

“I think for any club outside of Celtic at the moment, it’s going to be hard to win a title. I think it’s gone that way the world over, not just Scotland, because of the way the finances of the game are going. So success for me is probably to get Hibs back to that area where they were, in that top end of the table, and looking to pick up some silverware along the line.”

Looking in on the Airticity League from his novel position as an outsider, Fenlon is not overly impressed with what he sees.

“The standard in the league has dropped over the last couple of seasons,” he opines. “A lot of that is down to finances and the fact that a lot of the really good players have gone away. There is no doubt the league was really strong when Shels, Pat’s, Cork, Derry, Bohs and Drogheda had real strong sides. The intensity in the league was good as you had five or six teams who were equals. At the moment there is one or two ahead of the others. That will hopefully go full circle.

“This year? I think it will be tight between Rovers and Sligo again. I think Rovers will nick it. I know from managing in the league that winning it is difficult but retaining it even more so. There has to be a big hunger about Rovers to try and get it back.”


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