Maguiresbridge welcome mid-season boost to panel

IT’S around this time of year that Maguirebridge’s season typically sparks into life.

Around a dozen of their players line out for the Fermanagh hurlers, so that took up most of their time until the Lory Meagher Cup campaign ended with a round three defeat to Lancashire on June 8.

It’s no coincidence that their return has coincided with Maguiresbridge’s rich run of form at the moment.

They played and won all four matches in the month of June, but joint-manager of the senior football team, Keith Reilly, says there’s no urge to throw the hurleys in the bin.

“It’s hardly a relief as such when the Fermanagh hurlers bow out. We’re fully supportive of our dual players and with Fermanagh being in the lower tiers, their season is normally condensed a bit. It usually comes to its conclusion in June – we don’t have access to the players until that happens and we’re quite happy with that arrangement because it works for everyone.

“We’re usually slow to start because so many players are involved with the county hurling squad. We have about a dozen players so it’s usually a third of the way through the season before we have our full panel.

While having so many dual-players is hardly a complete logistics nightmare, it does make life more difficult. There was considerable disappointment at their relegation to the Junior Championship ranks late last season, and Reilly accepts they’ll be fancied by many to bounce straight back to the Intermediate ranks.

“A couple of wins here or there or a few losses makes a big difference. As for championship, I suppose the people out there might look at us as being favourites as we’ve appeared in a few Intermediate finals with the same sort of squad we currently have. Last year was an exceptionally poor season. Dropping down to junior football was nobody’s fault but our own and that’s the truth of where we are.”

The underage structures are good in Maguiresbridge, and from the club emerged three members of the all-conquering St Michael’s team this year – Caolan Duffy, James Hughes and Luca McCusker. However, a big problem at the moment is that most of their players are at the extreme ends of the age spectrum.

“Traditionally we’ve operated around the lower levels at underage level, we’ve had sporadic success over the last number of years. This team won a ‘B’ Championship at u16 grade and made a few minor panels so they’re competitive.

“Our major problem is numbers, we wouldn’t have the largest pick, and our squad is on the two ends of the spectrum. Some of our key players are in their late twenties and early thirties and some of our younger players are getting introduced to senior football quicker than in other clubs. We don’t have many players in their mid-to-late 20s to bridge that gap.”

Maguiresbridge sit fourth in the table after 12 rounds of play, but it’s a particularly tight Division Two this year with Coa the only team which is seriously struggling at present.

“Over the last number of years I’ve found that Division Two has become more competitive, even the teams who traditionally sit in the lower reaches of Division Two have improved dramatically.

“By and large all the teams are taking points of each other, so it makes for an interesting league.”

Reilly also says that they take considerable pride in their massive contribution to the rather isolated world of Fermanagh hurling, with their dual-players lining out for their only senior team Lisbellaw.

“Hurling is a struggle in the county. Lisbellaw could do with more competition to bring their players on.

“Although the underage structures in the county are improving, it’s quite a few years away before multiple clubs will be able to field at senior level.

“So Lisbellaw are in the unfortunate situation where they’ll have to fly the flag on their own for the next number of years.”

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