Porteous wants to keep Fermanagh competitive in Lory Meagher Cup
By Michael Devlin
For the players turning out to represent Fermanagh in their Lory Meagher Cup opener on Saturday afternoon, it won’t be a case of putting club rivalries to one side and uniting for the cause of the green jersey.
Since the cessation of the Lisnaskea Emmets club in 2015, Lisbellaw St Patrick’s have been the one and only senior hurling club in Fermanagh. There has been no county Championship since 2013, meaning St Patrick's go into the Ulster club championship every year without playing a single competitive game.
It is a peculiar scenario when it comes to the county team too, of which every panellist hurls for ‘the ‘Law’. One of those is half forward Rory Porteous, who was speaking at the launch of the Meagher Cup last week with eyes fixed on that opening tie with Cavan this weeked.
“It’s the one pocket that we’ve got now,” Porteous told GAA.ie. “The work at underage has now expanded out with a number of clubs doing it with younger age groups, but at senior level, it’s just us. We all know each other, we all hurl with each other all year round. It’s non-stop for us.
“There’s a few boys that did hurl with Lisnaskea in years gone by, and there were a few boys involved with clubs in Belfast like St John’s and Bredagh, and some fellas who hurled in Cavan for a while.
“Slowly though, those boys are starting to come home, and the only place they can hurl is in Lisbellaw. Obviously the ideal situation is having multiple teams around the county to push the level up, but for now we just come together as one and keep hurling going.”
The hope is that, in time, those juvenile clubs that are currently providing structures for young hurlers in Fermanagh can grow out to become fully-fledged senior clubs in their own right, which will naturally result in a much more vibrant club scene in the county.
“There’s a grey area now that there were boys that hurled at 17 and 18 years of age, where they’ve only been able to hurl in Lisbellaw, and that talent is spread out around the county so they are travelling to Lisbellaw at the minute.
“But coming up underneath those boys are young hurlers from all around the county that are hurling in those underage clubs, and it’s really spreading the talent out.”
Alongside Fermanagh and Cavan in the Meagher competition this year is Leitrim and the 2018 runners-up Lancashire. A stoppage-time goal denied Lancashire the silverware in a thrilling Croke Park final with Sligo last summer, and Porteous expects the Exiles to be going into the competition this season with high hopes.
“Having been in the division above in the National league is really going to have helped them. Even though they had a tough time, playing against that higher level of competition always brings you on a bit. They’ll definitely be looking at themselves as the favourites.
“We know it’s going to be a very tight championship. Any one of the teams looking at it, they can really give it a good rattle. We are familiar with the other teams and we’ve played against each other over the last few years. We know each other quite well.”
“We have a really young squad this year, a lot of young players either still in school or only coming out of school and in their first couple of years in university. Our boys kind of just need to be tested and pushed on and shown what inter-county hurling is.”
Hurling in Fermanagh ultimately remains an uphill struggle, but Porteus and his generation are steadfast in their commitment to strengthening the game in the Erne County, and part of that is to have the county team moving in the right direction.
“Especially the older boys in the team, we understand that we have to keep things going so that the boys that are coming up underage have something to aim for, that they have a county team to play for when they come through, and that it’s in the best possible place.”