WHO better to revive the fortunes of Tempo’s senior football team than John McElroy?
Not only did he steer the club to their most recent championship title back in 2012, but he also led Fermanagh to an Ulster final appearance in 1982, and played on the Tempo team which won three senior titles in the early 70s as well.
So it’s no great surprise that the man himself was elected honorary club chairman earlier in the year, but McElroy has resisted the temptation to put the feet up and is back on board as manager this season.
He freely admits that he answered an ‘SOS call’ after Tempo were relegated last season, and they sit a fairly health fourth in Division Two with a game or two in hand over their rivals around them.
McElroy said: “I don’t know how I found myself in this position, I quit this job years ago. I sort of answered the SOS call with boys who won the championship in 2012. Lads like Damian Kelly, Conor Foy, Darryl Keenan, Aidan Breen, they’re veterans at this stage but they decided they’d give it a bit of a lash this season.”
Tempo aren’t overly reliant on their more experienced players, however, with talented young players coming through the ranks like Tiarnan Bogue, Oisin Jackson, Lorcan McStravick, and Peter Rafferty, who was a substitute on the all-conquering St Michael’s Enniskillen team this year.
After a fairly average start to the season, they’ve won their last four games in a row and should only better with their county men returning after Fermanagh’s qualifier defeat to Monaghan at the weekend.
“We’d a poor enough start in so far as we hadn’t everyone available for a number of reasons.
“Now the majority are back on board and things are going a bit better. The two county lads coming back will help but after that we’re still waiting for a few more lads after that as well.”
McElroy isn’t surprised by how the league is panning out with Newtownbutler and Belnaleck, who have four county men, blazing a trail at the top of the table.
“Belnlaeck have a lot of talent at the moment, players in both the Fermanagh senior and u20 teams. They’ve lost a lot of men because of that but they’ll be back on board and they’ll be hard enough to put away.”
McElroy was was in charge of the Erne county from 1977 to 1985 and will always be fondly remembered for leading the county to within 70 minutes of a first Ulster senior title. He’s modest about his achievements, however.
“I wouldn’t want to give away my age. The last time Tempo won the championship was in 2012, the last time before that was in in 1972 so that gives you some idea of how old I am. We were very good in the early 70s in fairness.”
McElroy also says the convoluted starred system in Fermanagh makes life a bit more difficult.
One of the three categories for example is: ‘Players who are not included in an Inter-County Senior Panel of 26 players, shall be available to their Clubs for these ‘Games for Club Players’ on the weekends of Inter-County Senior games.’
McElroy says it’s difficult when they don’t have a full panel at their disposal.
“It is complicated for a club especially in a small county like Fermanagh. If you take x number of players off the team it can leave you very weak.”
Meanwhile, Tempo did manage to hold onto their senior championship status last season and will play Anthony Drumm’s Teemore later in the season.
McElroy hasn’t thought that far ahead but admits that playing in Division Two isn’t the best preparation for the championship.
“It’d be unusual to be winning many championships from the second division but we’ll give it a shot. We’re not really looking ahead as we’re trying to get ourselves sorted in the league.”