Fenagh St Callins relishing 2020 adventure
By Cian O’Connell
A gripping Leitrim SFC continues to unfold with this weekend’s semi-finals carrying intrigue.
Last year Fenagh St Caillins survived a relegation battle, but under the stewardship of Joe Flynn the penultimate stage has been reached in 2020. That is a clear sign of the progress being made with Flynn, an emerging manager in the west, keen to make an impact too.
During the past decade Flynn has enjoyed his time coaching and seeking to improve players. “Definitely, I'm young enough, I'm 38 at the minute, I was manager of Strokestown in Roscommon in 2011 and 2012 when I was only 29 and 30,” Flynn says.
“So I have been managing teams for a long time, I've been involved in and out with my home club (St Mary’s Kiltoghert) in and out for a while.
“I was managing them last year, but we just parted ways and the opportunity presented to get involved with Fenagh. I knew it was an up and coming club. It is a well established club, they have been building for a long time.”
Flynn sensed the possibilities that existed. “I felt with a bit of structure and a game plan that we could bring this team forward,” Flynn adds.
“The players have responded, that is what you want from a team, to buy into what you want to do, and they have bought in throughout. Even in the lockdown we had a zoom meeting once a week talking about culture and developing that throughout the year.
“They have really bought into it. We are getting the results on the field. It might be just the small percentages that make the difference in football, that is where we are looking to make these gains.”
Such a willingness to develop a culture and establish standards matters deeply according to Flynn. “Definitely, can you embed high standards and good behaviours around the club,” Flynn states.
“It is important for a group of young men coming through that they can set high standards and expect high standards from everybody else. That is what they are doing and that is what has transferred on to the pitch. You can see that at training, you can see it throughout the club, that there is this buy in.
“Hopefully it isn't just for the year 2020, this is something you want to build on, year on year going forward and it will benefit the club in the long run.”
On the field of play Fenagh St Caillins have impressed under Flynn’s guidance with the upcoming tussle against Mohill on Saturday next on the agenda.
“It is a great opportunity for the lads,” Flynn states. “They have been building for a number of years after success at underage. It is great to see them coming through at senior level and to reach a semi-final for the first time in a long time.
“There is great talent, but it is all about getting the talent on the pitch on the big day and performing as a team. Last year they were unlucky, they picked up a number of injuries and when you are dealing with a small panel injuries will affect you more.
“This year we have been very lucky and you need a bit of luck in any Championship. We've had nearly a full complement in every game and it will be the same on Saturday hopefully.”
Ultimately the group stages of the Leitrim Championship supplied thrills and spills. No club came through that phase unbeaten to illustrate how eventful it has all been in the west.
“It has been a brilliant Championship in Leitrim,” Flynn remarks. “We were drawn in what was classified as the group of death and in that you saw Aughawillan, who won the Championship in '14, '16, and '18 they ended up in a relegation final.
“They came through that, but it shows you the competitive nature of the Championship. Six of the 10 teams probably had ambitions of winning it and that is the way it has materialised.
“You still have Ballinamore, who were in the county final, they have fallen away in the quarter-final and the four of us that are left all have big ambitions of winning it. You have three town teams and one rural team, Fenagh, so you have that angle to it too.
“So it has been a great Championship, it has been reduced down to 10 from 12 teams which is probably what has tightened it all up. There was talk of bringing it to eight, but I think there is enough good teams for 10 to make it a competitive Championship.”
The fact that Leitrim’s evolving inter-county players have been available has added substance too. “I think the county has benefitted because we've had full access to players for the build up,” Flynn comments.
“It wasn't a case of the county pulling from the players, every club got full access and that has driven it home. Nobody is away, everybody is around so every team is pulling from a full complement of players. It has made it one of the best Championships in years in Leitrim.”