Fermanagh hurlers relishing time in the limelight

In a one-club county, days like Saturday don’t come around too often
Fermanagh hurlers relishing time in the limelight

Fermanagh players celebrate with the Lory Meagher Cup after the 2015 win over Sligo at Croke Park. Picture: Matt Browne / Sportsfile

In a one-club county, days like Saturday don’t come around too often for Fermanagh hurling.

They face Louth in the Lory Meagher Cup, the curtain-raiser to Kilkenny and Waterford. That the GAA are now able to host these events is something else.

With only Lisbellaw St Patrick’s operating as a senior club, it’s inevitable that the names ring down the generations. This is the fourth time they have been in the Lory Meagher final, and in the only win, Conor McShea was an unused sub in 2015 when they defeated Sligo.

McShea is now a mainstay of the team. His father Ollie was one of the best ever sportsmen from the county. He won several football Championship with Enniskillen Gaels and was a critical cog in the team that reached Ulster club final in 1999 and 2002.

As a left hand over right hurler, he had a rare quality, featuring in a few Ulster Railway Cup teams of the early 90s at a time when Antrim and Down were regularly spending seasons in Division One.

Ollie is now a senior team selector for manager Joe Baldwin. He won his own All-Ireland in 1994 when Fermanagh beat London on a baking hot summer’s day in Ruislip. But still, he never got to play in Croke Park.

“Well, he would be considered one of the best ever hurlers to come out of Fermanagh so I don’t know if I would have much over him!” laughs his son now.

“There are maybe 10 of that panel from 2015 who are still a part of the panel, there are a lot of young boys looking forward to getting out and playing on Croke Park. So we are delighted with it.”

In 2015, the team were carried along on a tidal wave of emotion after they lost their team mate Shane Mulholland in a car crash. A sizeable crowd made their way to Croke Park that day and while nobody can be there this time, they know that people are into it.

“We have received a lot of nice messages from youth from all over the county, wishing they could be there,” says McShea, before pointing out that there are now eight different teams operating as underage hurling clubs in the county.

“For young people within the county, they can see the chances that the Fermanagh county hurling team have chances to play in Croke Park.

To be part of these big occasions and it is something that can drive it on for the younger generation.

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