Secretary's Report - League Reports - Secretary's Report 2011/12
Secretary's Report 2011/12
Welcome to another end of year retrospective on what has been another successful Season that featured a wealth of memorable moments, some outstanding performances and its usual quota of disappointments.
As I present my Annual Report it is important to reinforce that the Fermanagh & Western Football League embodies much more than the Competitions it organises. It is not only the participation of those that play the Game but those people off the field who immerse themselves in the Fermanagh & Western Club environment. In its widest terms the League links more than two and a half thousand people who take part in a full programme of matches on any given weekend and includes Players, Managers, Coaches, Referees, Administrators, Volunteers and Supporters who venture out in rain, hail or shine.
Rule 2(c) of the League’s Rules now decrees that copies of my Annual Report “shall be forwarded to each Club at least five days prior to the Annual General Meeting”. For most, reading an Annual Report is at best tedious and uninteresting. More likely, it is a document to be set aside and “read later”. I hope that you do take the time to read this Report, I thank you for doing so and I hope that you are encouraged by what you read.
Football in the region remains in a healthy state. It is reflected in the success of our 2011/2012 Season and in particular through increased participation. The statistics are impressive by any standard – this Season the League provided Football for thirty-four Clubs and sixty-four Teams divided into six Divisions.
Concerns about the future viability of our Clubs proved groundless and the number of Teams remained constant throughout the Season with no departures following Churchtown Colts pre-Season withdrawal from Reserve Division 3.
Barrowfield’s Appeal against the decision taken at last year’s Annual General Meeting to exclude them from Membership of the League, which was eventually considered and dismissed by the Irish Football Association’s Appeals Board on Monday 25th July 2011, resulted in the publication of the Fixtures List being considerably delayed. Six hundred and twenty-four fixtures were scheduled and although the weather was relatively kind for the first time in many seasons 32% of the scheduled fixtures were postponed on at least one occasion. A hectic end of season playing schedule ensued for some Teams and great credit is due to all Players and Officials for their endeavours in ensuring that we were able to successfully conclude our Fixtures Programme by mid- May.
A total of twelve fixtures were not played and appropriate fines (ranging from £75.00
to £100.00) were imposed on those Teams that forfeited the points for these fixtures to their opponents who had score-lines of 3-0 recorded in their favour in accordance with League Rules and FIFA Regulations. It is disconcerting to note that two of these forfeitures were occasioned by suspensions being imposed on Clubs by the Irish Football Association following their failure to pay fines arising out of the accumulation
of Disciplinary Reports.
A total of five Teams were found guilty of having played ineligible Players in fixtures following the lodgement of Protests / Claim for Points by their opponents. In all cases the miscreants were fined £75.00 and the points for the fixtures were awarded to their opponents who also had score-lines of 3-0 recorded in their favour in accordance with League Rules and FIFA Regulations.
There were a number of standout performances throughout the Divisions and in particular Lisbellaw United and Lisbellaw United Reserves who retained their titles – the latter were one of only two Teams (Lisnarick were the other) to remain unbeaten throughout the Season.
We also pay tribute to our other Champion Teams - Strabane Athletic, Lisnarick, Shelbourne Reserves and Maguiresbridge Reserves - on their achievements as well as to all those Teams that won promotion – Killen Rangers, Sion Mills Rec, Churchtown Reserves and Dergview III.
Ballinamallard United Reserves are moving on to pastures new next Season following the promotion of the Club’s First Team to the IFA Premiership and their ensuing mandatory participation in the IFA Reserve League. The Ferney Park based Team have been an integral part of this League for many years and I believe that their time with us has been mutually beneficial. We wish them well and thank them for their time with us.
Mercer Cup (Division 1) The first Season of the ABC for PCs sponsored Mercer Cup saw possibly the most captivating title race in the history of the League.
From the outset Lisbellaw United – brimming with confidence following back-to-back titles – set out to defend their League trophy and maintain their status as the League’s premier Team. Enniskillen Town United frustrated at falling short in their ambition of recapturing past glories looked to embark on a new season with fresh optimism.
After two matches the “Town” were pointless and bottom of the Division but they never looked back after a 6-2 away victory over Tummery Athletic in their third game which kick-started their campaign and they embarked on a twenty games unbeaten League run which included home and away victories over Lisbellaw United. However the Champions had an otherwise electrifying campaign and their relentless consistency, which has been fundamental to their recent successes, enabled them to reel in a “Town” side that had led the League table for much of the campaign. “Town” could not have done any more. They ended the season with 56 points – a record haul for a Team not winning the title – yet it is impossible to argue that the Drumad based side were not worthy Champions for the third successive Season. They won twenty games – the only blemishes on their record were the two defeats by “Town” – and for the third successive Season they amassed a record total of 60 points. Their aim now is to win a fourth successive title thereby emulating the achievement of their predecessors who dominated local Football in the late 1970s / early 1980s.
The rest of the League were left helplessly behind and the 18 points gap between the Runners-Up and third placed Ballinamallard United Reserves is indicative of the way the
rest of the Division has been cut adrift.
The two newly promoted Teams – Strathroy Harps and Dergview Reserves – both
comfortably retained their Division 1 status. The latter finished in a creditable fourth position while the former shared sixth place with Tummery Athletic who remain a bafflingly inconsistent side. Strathroy Harps’ Irish Junior Cup exploits probably cost them a much higher final League position but they achieved their primary aim of becoming the first Omagh Club to win Junior Football’s Blue Riband Competition and in so doing brought great honour to themselves and the League.
Enniskillen Rangers had another Season of consolidation and their fifth position was an improvement on last Season’s final placing of joint-sixth while the Swifts of Beragh and Fintona both eventually rose above the relegation mire to finish in eight and ninth positions respectively.
The opening weeks of the season were clearly a false dawn for Churchtown and Shelbourne who were among the early front runners. It was a poor season for Churchtown who were sucked into a relegation battle from which they narrowly escaped. The end of the Season came as a relief for them and they will look to start afresh next Season.
A Season that began so promisingly unexpectedly fell away for Shelbourne whose campaign can be best described as shambolic as they staggered from one mediocre performance to another. A 5-0 defeat in their penultimate game confirmed their relegation and a return to Division 2 after an absence of four years.
Having narrowly escaped relegation last Season this was always going to be a difficult Season for Enniskillen Santos who looked odds on for the drop from an early stage and ended up 12 points adrift of safety after winning just two games all Season.
Enda Love Cup (Division 2) Strabane Athletic became the first side since Strathroy Harps in 2007 to claim back-to-back promotions. Having been the table leaders all season long they had to wait until their final game to clinch a second successive Divisional title. The key to their success was straightforward - they won more games (eighteen), scored more goals (ninety-two) and conceded fewer goals (twenty-two) than anyone else.
Runners-Up Killen Rangers comfortably outperformed any of their promotion rivals and had seven points to spare over third placed Irvinestown Wanderers and finished fifteen points clear of fourth placed Omagh Hospitals. The Villagers have endured a six years exile from the top Division and will make a long awaited and welcome return.
Irvinestown Wanderers started the season as promotion favourites but were unable to mount a serious challenge and missed out on an immediate return to Division 1. However they may be given the opportunity to challenge themselves in the top tier next season following the exodu of Ballinamallard United Reserves.
Mid-table anonymity was a major disappointment for relegated Glebe United but a joyful haven for newly promoted Maguiresbridge and Strule United.
Lisnaskea Rovers and Spamount Swifts both had ordinary unspectacular Seasons while the Reserve sides of Ardstraw, NFC Kesh and Mountjoy United became embroiled in a relegation battle.
Mountjoy United Reserves’ unexpected and calamitous loss of form saw them lose eleven of their final thirteen games to finish in bottom position. In contrast Ardstraw
Reserves won their final four games to draw level on points with NFC Kesh Reserves and force a Relegation Play-Off which they won following a dramatic penalty shoot-out.
Brendan Keogh Memorial Cup (Division 3) Lisnarick topped the table from the outset and as the Season progressed it became evident that they were on track to win their fourth Division 3 title of the new millennium although they only confirmed promotion and the League title in their final game.
Sion Mills Rec had a terrific first Season in the League and they were involved in a manic scrap for the second promotion spot with Derrychara United who were hoping to eradiacte their promotion heartache of the previous Season. Defeat in their final game against Magheraveely led to even more heartache for the Team from Enniskillen and paved the way for Sion Mills Rec’s promotion.
For the second successive Season Fivemiletown United II amassed 34 points and again finished in fourth position – one place ahead of newcomers Magheraveely who will be more than satisfied with their achievements.
Drumquin United and Orchard Farm both had indeterminate campaigns as had debutants Erne Rovers who made history when they hosted the first ever League match to be played on an artificial surface when they played Dunbreen Rovers on the 3G Pitch at Bawnacre Centre, Irvinestown.
The bottom two places were again occupied by Dunbreen Rovers and Augher Stars who had the unenviable distinction of being the only Team in the League not to record a win but are commended for completing their all of their games.
Pete Keane Memorial Cup (Reserve Division 1) Lisbellaw United Reserves’ Season very much mirrored their First Team’s efforts. They were the dominant Team throughout, ended the Season undefeated and finished twelve points ahead of their nearest challengers Strathroy Harps Reserves who had themselves harboured aspirations of winning a second Reserve Division 1 title.
A solitary point separated local rivals Enniskillen Town United Reserves and Enniskillen Rangers Reserves who had two points to spare over fifth placed Killen Rangers Reserves.
Glebe United Reserves’ sixth position was an improvement of one place on their previous Season’s final standing of while newly promoted Beragh Swifts Reserves will be playing in the highest echelons of Reserve Team Football again next Season after finishing in seventh position.
For the second successive Season Tummery Reserves finished one place above the relegation zone which was occupied by Fintona Swifts Reserves (making an immediate return to Reserve Division 2) and NFC Kesh III whose only success came in the final game of their campaign.
Robin Porter Memorial Cup (Reserve Division 2) Shelbourne Reserves deservedly won the Reserve Division 2 Championship for the second time following an impressive campaign which saw them surge clear after Christmas.
Churchtown Reserves ensured that their stay in Reserve Division 2 would be brief - they
were the only relegated Team to gain immediate promotion which was confirmed in their penultimate game.
Third placed Enniskillen Town United Colts briefly threatened while recently promoted Spamount Swifts Reserves finished in a creditable fourth position.
Lisbellaw United III had an incredibly positive start to the Season (eight wins from their opening eight games) but imploded in spectacular fashion after Christmas and finished disappointingly in fifth place.
Lisnaskea Rovers Reserves finished in a comfortable mid-table position while Enniskillen Santos Reserves enjoyed an upturn in their fortunes after Christmas that prevented a second successive relegation.
Victory in their penultimate game assured Orchard Farm Reserves of another Season in the Reserve Division 2 while Lisnarick Reserves and Fivemiletown United III will return to Reserve Division 3 after relatively short absences.
Patton Cup (Reserve Division 3) As the season progressed it became evident that Maguiresbridge Reserves were on track to win their first ever Reserve League title and after ten years they will play their Football in the second tier of Reserve Team Football next Season where they will be joined by Dergview III. Both promoted Teams lost their opening games (indeed Dergview III lost three of their opening four games) but lengthy winning sequences thereafter enabled them to finish well ahead of third placed Strule United Reserves who had a memorable first ever campaign.
Dunbreen Rovers Reserves and Irvinestown Wanderers Reserves, who had both been relegated in the previous Season, never mounted a serious challenge for promotion and finished well adrift of the promotion places.
Newcomers Killen Rangers III and Omagh Hospitals Reserves will be pleased with their endeavours and both finished ahead of perennial strugglers Derrychara United Reserves. Orchard Farm III had an inauspicious first Season and finished 6 points adrift of Mountjoy United III at the bottom of the table.
The Annual Season Curtain Raiser between the previous Season’s Mercer League Champions (Lisbellaw United) and Mulhern Cup Winners (Ballinamallard United Reserves) was played at Drumad, Lisbellaw on Tuesday 16th August when the “home” side retained the trophy following a 2-0 victory.
The League is appreciative of the Lisbellaw United Club which provided their facilities free of charge and the Match Officials who did not seek reimbursement for their services. These generous gestures enabled a donation of £600.00 to be divided equally between Erne School and MS (Fermanagh Branch) – the nominated Charities of the two Teams.
It is important that we continue to get comprehensive coverage in our local papers and the local press continue to cover the local Game with great consistency and detail –
albeit on many occasions with incorrect detail. The consistency of coverage is testament to the strength of our League and the Clubs within and we place on record our grateful
thanks to Colm Bradley (Fermanagh Herald), Tommy Nethery (Tyrone / Ulster Herald), Mark Conway and Gareth Cauldwell (Impartial Reporter), Chris Caldwell (Tyrone Constitution) and Paddy Hunter (Q101.2) for their mostly informative reporting on the League and its activities
Terry Patterson’s weekly Ulster Herald column entitled “A View From The Stand” reveal him to be a scribe high on rhetoric, low on substance and even lower on credibility as he continues to orchestrate a defamatory and premeditated campaign against the League and its Officials.
Mr Patterson may feel that he has the right to say whatever he likes but he must observe accuracy and gauge the real situation – not one that he wishes to portray. His willingness to repeatedly comment on issues without information from those concerned
severely undermines his credibility - much of his commentary is based on the remarks of partisan witnesses merely taken at face value and I believe the time is nigh to bring him to account for his inane rantings.
While refereeing standards will always attract debate it must be remembered that, like Players, Managers and Coaches, Referees are continually striving to produce their best. Their form – plus preparation, fitness and knowledge of the Laws of the Game – are put to the test each time they referee and it would be great if every decision they made was accepted as correct. However the dynamic nature of our Game almost ensures that cannot be the case.
Criticism and abuse is not “part of the Game” although there are many who will undoubtedly disagree with this sentiment. We must strive to ensure that abuse of Referees is removed from the Game. We must try to swing the pendulum to Referees being appreciated for what they do, not damned for what they may not do quite so well.
Although many of you might think otherwise the contribution made by our Referees should not be underestimated and we thank them for their endeavours particularly septuagenarians Frankie Hannigan, Joe Crawford and Pat Chesters who was recently honoured with the Northern Ireland Referees’ Association’s Chairman’s Award. Congratulations Pat on an Award well deserved.
I would also like to congratulate Arnold Hunter and Richard Storey on their elevation to the 2012 FIFA List of Referees and Assistant Referees. They have set the standard to which all Referees should endeavour to attain.
The local Referees’ Association continues to provide an outstanding service and an enormous amount of time and effort goes into the development and recruitment of Referees. They are always on the lookout for more Referees and I would encourage anyone from your Clubs who may have an interest in refereeing to make with contact with the Association’s Recruitment Officer Wesley Campbell.
A special thank you to our Referees’ Appointments Officer Basil Marshall who once again has met the many demands placed upon him appointing Match Officials for our games by providing a refereeing service unequalled elsewhere – ours is the only Junior
League to have Referees provided for almost every game.
Officials from the League continued to have positive dialogue with the Referees’ Association during the past Season and it has been agreed that Meetings will henceforth take place in early August and January each Season.
Off the field 2011/2012 was another success in difficult economic times for the League and I am pleased to report that we have strengthened our financial position despite ever increasing expenditure - the Balance Sheet reflecting a strong and stable position.
Treasurer Gordon Lee will report a profit of £1909.43 on the Season’s activities. Income for the Season totalled £32,947.00 – an increase of £2,972.50 while expenditure amounted to £31,037.57 – an increase of £5,437.87 on the previous Season. The overall surplus, though down from £4,374.80 in 2010/2011, has exceeded expectations.
The much anticipated vastly reduced income from Registrations / Transfers failed to materialise and Fees received in respect of same were considerably greater than in pre ‘One Player One Club’ years.
Seeking alternative avenues of income has always been a major focus for the League and it is hoped that the proposed Golf Classic, to be held at Fintona Golf Club in early June next year, will become a valuable source of revenue. The redesigned website will hopefully enable us to generate new income streams.
Football at all levels could not survive without the support of Sponsors, especially in today’s tough economic times, and I take this opportunity to acknowledge the support of our only Sponsors ABC for PCs and The Print Factory. Once again we face entering another Season without sponsors for Division 3 and all of our Reserve Divisions which places more strain on our finances.
The Management Committee met on eight occasions throughout the Season and attendances at Meetings were excellent despite the regular absences of some Members prior to their eventual expulsion from the Committee. An Attendance Register which depicts the attendance records of all Office Bearers and Club Delegates is included at the end of this Report and reveals that eight Members attended all Meetings while another nine Members had an attendance rate of 75% or more.
The remit of Management Committee Members is to govern responsibly, effectively and to act in the best interests of the League. Committee Members must evaluate their own performances in light of the recent Enniskillen Town United v Enniskillen Santos case when several Members undoubtedly seized the opportunity to discriminate against Enniskillen Town United in their determination not to permit home Teams to play on
an alternative pitch unless at least forty-eight hours notice was given to away Teams. This decision was so unreasonable that no Committee acting reasonably could have come to that decision having regard to the evidence, or lack of it, before it. Indeed compliant Members had inexplicably declined to take advice from the Chairman who had intimated that permissions granted heretofore had irrefutably been correct. The ramifications were many and resulted in a profusion of unnecessary postponements and the immediate drafting of a considerable number of amendments to the League’s Rules to remove ambiguity.
I would like to thank the Members of the Rules Revision Committee who ensure that the League’s Rules are kept up to date. Their next task will be to recommend structural changes to the composition of the Management Committee as a result of the Irish Football Association’s Appeals Board’s recent determination that there were potential conflicts of interest between Members and the appellant in the recent case of Derrychara United v Magheraveely.
To run a League requires good and effective communication and it is therefore disappointing to note that a majority of Clubs regularly fail to attend to correspondence and have to be chased for replies. Time and money spent on chasing replies (and debt) is not an efficient use of the League’s resources which should be spent on its core activities. Finding quality people to run our Clubs is becoming more and
more difficult. I would ask all Clubs to take a good look at themselves and if they can identify with the above then please take the necessary remedial action.
I find it hard to believe that it has been three years since I was elected as Secretary. The majority of people I have encountered have been extremely warm, friendly and hospitable towards me. Inevitably there has also been a minority who have been less than supportive and as previously alluded there are others who incorrectly believe that unwarranted criticism and abuse of League and Match Officials is “part of the Game” –
a belief that was recently epitomised by several Fintona Swifts’ Players who vented their frustrations on me with vociferous abusive comments in the aftermath of a game at Ecclesville Park.
I have also been subjected to a sustained vitriolic blame campaign by Officials, Players and Supporters of Lisbellaw United that culminated in a despicable verbal attack on me as I exited Drumad after a recent League game when one of their Supporters publicly stated “I hope you have a heart attack during the night and die.” The standard Lisbellaw United response ensued: “He’s not one of our Supporters.” You can’t find a Manchester United Supporter in Manchester either!
The work of administering a League for all participants is a complex task and people naturally tend to be inwardly focussed and concentrate on their own interests. I don’t have a problem with giving an opinion or making unpopular decisions in the best interests of the League and its Members Clubs. I can be accused of many things but I can’t be accused of putting my own Club’s interests before the League’s. I have and will make mistakes, albeit with good intent, but these errors of judgement are almost negligible in comparison to the considerable administrative failings of the Lisbellaw United Club which resulted in ignominious exits from the Mulhern and Irish Junior Cups in 2011.
I have been democratically elected to the post of Secretary at the past three Annual General Meetings where everyone has had the right to stand for Office. The most pragmatic approach for the Members of Lisbellaw United is for one of their own to oppose me on next Tuesday evening but removing me will not eradicate their own inadequacies and deficiencies!
An Information Evening was held for Clubs on 10th August in the Bawnacre Centre, Irvinestown and was reasonably well attended – twenty Clubs were represented although inexplicably none of the League’s three new Clubs were in attendance!
The Information Evening is very important in that its primary aim is to provide information, in an informal atmosphere, to Club Officials that will enable them to improve their own administration procedures and make them aware of the mechanisms of the League. The Information Evening was an undoubted success with many issues of mutual interest and importance being discussed.
One of the highlights of the past Season was the inaugural Hall Of Fame Dinner which was held in The Killyhevlin Hotel, Enniskillen on Friday 23rd March. Forty-two invited guests were present to witness former Chairman Enda Love and former Secretary Brendan Keogh become the first inductees into the League’s Hall Of Fame – overdue recognition for two personalities who contributed so much for so long to local Football. The Dinner was a spectacular success and a memorable occasion for all who were there. Tables comprising many Members of the Love and Keogh Families made the occasion all the more special. Both Families were presented with magnificent Galway Crystal Trophies while individual Family Members received medals.
The League’s Annual Awards Dinner took place in The Fir Trees Hotel, Strabane on Friday 1st June and once again proved to be a huge success despite apathy from 65% of our Clubs. A total of twelve Clubs only attended the Dinner and of the absentees two Clubs cited attendance at other events, five Clubs stated that they would not be in attendance (no explanation given) while fifteen Clubs inexplicably saw fit not to respond to my invitation issued on 5th May 2012 or my reminder issued some seventeen days later. Thanks go out to the Clubs and the local Referees’ Association who supported and thoroughly enjoyed the event.
The Dinner is a celebration of sporting success and an opportunity to catch up with old friends, to make new ones, to have an occasional sip and to bid adieu to the Season past. The highlight of the Dinner is, of course, the presentation of the various Divisional Team of the Year Awards, the various Divisional Player of the Year Awards and the Young Player of the Year Award which is not specific to any Division.
In early May Team Secretaries / Managers were asked to select a Team of the Year and a Player of the Year from their own Divisions. Once again apathy was decidedly prevalent and many Teams failed to return their selections which regrettably, in several instances, excluded their own Players from being selected.
Notwithstanding Gary Beckett (Enniskillen Town United) was again adjudged Player of the Year while Trevor Morrison (Killen Rangers) and David Burke (Sion Mills Rec) became the first recipients of the Division 2 and Division 3 Player of the Year Awards. Matthew McAuley (Enniskillen Town United) succeeded his Team-mate Frank Wallace as the Young Player of the Year. Congratulations to all Players on their selection.
During the coming months we will need to consider options that will maximise Club attendance at the Dinner and ensure 100% compliance with the selection procedures for the various Team and Player of the Year Awards. It is hoped that the proposed changes will build on the already formidable success that the event has proved since its inception two years ago.
I wish to take this opportunity to thank the Members of the Management Committee for their time and input throughout the year and want to assure them all that, despite our occasional differences at times, their support and contributions were very much appreciated.
I would especially like to thank my fellow Officers for the dedication and expertise so generously given over the past twelve months.
I want to thank Neil Jardine who has undertaken the role of Chairman in an exemplary professional manner. He has been a purposeful and forthright leader who has kept a balanced perspective. The nature of my role means that I spend a lot of time working closely with him and I am most grateful for his commitment and support.
It is with mixed feelings that I express special thanks and appreciation to Rory Lynch for his contributions to the League in his role as Registrar over the past three years. During his relatively brief tenure he has guided the League through an extended period of reorganisation following the expansion of Player Registration Regulations. His will be a hard act to follow and I thank him for his invaluable contribution.
It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the unique contribution of our Treasure Gordon Lee who continues to work assiduously for our League.
I wish to record my thanks and congratulations to the many people involved in organising Football locally. I am well aware of the commitment needed, the frustration that occurs and the pleasure of success however limited it may be. The outstanding work and contribution to our Game by these few committed individuals is seldom fully appreciated by the many onlookers. What are needed if the Game is to continue to flourish are more doers and fewer lookers-on!
The League wishes to record its thanks to Lisbellaw United and Killen Rangers for making their pitches available during the Season.
We continue to hold all of our Meetings in the Bawnacre Centre, Irvinestown and we are grateful to George Beacom for his generosity in placing such excellent facilities at our disposal. I would also like to acknowledge the efforts of George and his staff who resolutely maintain and sustain the Bawnacre Results Service which is regularly availed of by our Member Clubs and the general public.
On behalf of the League I would like to offer sincere condolences to those who suffered bereavements during the past Season. Local Football lost one of its finest on 29th February when Jim Keenan died after a short illness. He will be fondly remembered by all especially by those within the Enniskillen Rangers Club to whom he had given a lifetime of selfless service. Our thoughts go out to his Family and also to the Family of Jamie Murphy, a Player with Enniskillen Santos, whose tragic death in mid-July last year shocked the entire Football Community.
Nothing in life stays the same and there is little doubt that what works today is unlikely to meet the growing needs and challenges of tomorrow. We must constantly apply hindsight to our past experiences, insight to our present realities and foresight to our vision of the future. The ability of the League to adapt to meet these needs and challenges in the future is critical to ensuring that we remain as the pre-eminent Junior Football League in Northern Ireland.
As we prepare to close another illustrious chapter in our History I look forward to joining the rest of the Fermanagh & Western Family in welcoming the challenges of 2012/2013 and beyond.