Merit Award Recipients - 2016
The League’s Hall of Fame was established in 2012 to provide due recognition to those who have given outstanding service and made a significant contribution to local Football throughout the League’s history since its establishment in the early twentieth century. George Henderson became the eleventh person to be inducted into the Hall Of Fame at the League’s fifth Hall Of Fame Dinner which was held in The Killyhevlin Hotel’s Riverside Suite on Friday 26th February.
Under a new initiative the League determined that the valued contributions of Individuals at all levels of the Game who had volunteered their time and efforts over a significant number of years to the fostering and development of Football locally should be recognised through its innovative Merit Awards. And so it was that Andy Bogle, Paul Cassidy and Pat Chesters became the inaugural recipients of Merit Awards and all three Individuals were honoured at the Hall Of Fame Dinner.
Awards of this nature will always bring the inevitable questions of why wasn’t this person or that person included but clearly there have not been any questions about the three inaugural recipients - without doubt they were all deserving of the honour bestowed on them.
Once again the Dinner was a spectacular success and a memorable occasion for those who were there but especially for Members of the Henderson, Bogle, Cassidy and Chesters Families who were in attendance.
The following are the orations given by Roy Cathcart, Chairman of the Fermanagh & Western Football Association, Neil Jardine, Chairman of the Fermanagh & Western Football League and Gerard Connolly, Secretary of the Fermanagh & Western Football League, at the Dinner:
Samuel George Henderson
Samuel George Henderson, born in 1941 and universally known within local football circles as “Yogi”, is a most worthy recipient of the latest Fermanagh & Western Football League Hall of Fame Award.
George’s association with football dates back to his early days as a constable in the Royal Ulster Constabulary when he was first posted to Omagh. In 1962, he was asked by some of his counterparts to play for a local team Firmount United who played their matches, as most teams did in that era, in a farmers field know as McGrath’s Field at Gortnagarn, Omagh. One evening the young Henderson went out to the pitch with a bag of sawdust to mark the lines only to find the field ploughed! A quick get together of some of the
members of Fairmount resulted in the team gaining another field at Dunbreen to use and following that the team applied for membership of the Fermanagh & Western under the name of Dunbreen Rovers. That was at the start of the 1963/64 Season and the newly formed team joined with the other eight teams, Letterbreen, Enniskillen Rangers, Enniskillen Corinthians, Taylor Woods, Ely Omagh Caxtonians, Brookeborough and the Garrison team from Lisanally Barracks to form Division One (the only one) of the League. The Secretary of the new Club, unsurprisingly was George Henderson, a role he has held since that inception and still fulfils today, 53 years later.
I would safely say that there are very few administrators who have held such a role at any club, be it in the Fermanagh & Western or in the Irish Football Association for such a period; indeed, I would go as far as saying this would be a unique achievement. But then again, to all who have come across Yogi in that half century, the word unique would come up more than once in conversation.
With Dunbreen Rovers up and running, it was not long until George lent his administration nous to the Fermanagh & Western taking up a role on the Management Committee in the mid-sixties. Although I was not able to confirm an exact starting date I did see his name recorded in the 1970/71 fixture book as Dunbreen representative and a member of the Emergency & Referees’ Committees.
It was around this time that George also took up his role as a member of Senior Council in the Irish Football Association serving on the Committee for a period of around 15 years, thus qualifying him for Life Membership. George’s service and membership of Senior Council made him one of the Fermanagh & Western Holy Trinity along with Enda Love and Brendan Keogh and there are many stories that could be told about trips to Belfast for meetings or away trips to the Home Internationals at Wembley, Hampden Park or St Ninian’s Park, and probably just as many that probably shouldn’t be told. The three together, although the smallest grouping on Senior Council, gave this Association a valid and respected voice at the top table at Belfast, something that myself, Roy and the other Fermanagh & Western delegates today still reap the benefits of.
As I have alluded to previously, George has served the League & Association for over 50 years and his most significant contribution during that time was as Treasurer, a post he inherited from another previous recipient of this Honour, the late Robin Mitchell. During his time as Treasurer, George had an uncanny knack of extracting money from many varied sources and as a result, all Leagues and Cups had sponsors and if additional funds were required, George would just say, “Leave that with me” and sure enough, pounds shillings and pence would have been extracted from some poor unwitting source, all in the name of football.
Following a temporary blip in how club’s from the Omagh area where affiliated to the IFA, George stepped down from the Treasurer’s post but remained active on the Management Committee. He was later to reprise this role to great effect when in 1998, the Association set up the new Fermanagh & Western Youth League, now the Brendan Keogh Youth League which George served for many years; indeed, he was the first person to be awarded their “Services to Youth Football” in 2002.
George has also been instrumental in the Tyrone Milk Cup Committee since its inception, serving in many different roles; currently he is the President, a role he also fulfils within the Fermanagh & Western Football Association.
There are many other indicators of the service that George has given to football at all levels in the Fermanagh & Western domain, not least the small matter of an MBE, but I am sure you will all agree that this summary marks him out as a very worthy inductee to the Fermanagh & Western Football League Hall of Fame, and a fitting addition to the stellar names who already adorn our Honours Board.
Andy Bogle and Killen Rangers are practically synonymous in Fermanagh & Western circles and Andy has been a massive part of the Club since its inception in 1982. Indeed he was Team Manager for the first ten years of the Club’s existence and guided them from the Third to the First Division in only six years – the Club finished third in Division in its inaugural Season 1982/83 and won the Division the following year.
In Season 1987/88 Killen Rangers were Runners-Up to neighbours Barrowfield in Division Two and thus entered Division One for the first time. At the end of that first Season, as Andy recalls with quiet pleasure, Killen Rangers escaped relegation by beating Dergview 4-3 on April Fool’s Day 1989. Andy continued as Manager until 1992 before handing the reins over to Andrew Sproule. During this period he also helped found and managed Killen Rangers Youth and he is proud of the fact that he introduced three players who subsequently played Irish League football – Richard Clarke, Andrew Crawford and Gareth Sproule.
While Killen Rangers have not quite managed to win the Mercer League title Andy recalls with pleasure that they were Runners-Up to Enniskillen Rangers’ treble-winning side in 1998/99 and were indeed the only side to beat Enniskillen Rangers that Season and four years later in 2002/02 they came even closer losing to Shelbourne after a play-off.
Andy has been known to lace on the boots for the Reserve as well and he played his last game in April 1991 – a game in which Trevor Morrison made his debut and perhaps even more importantly a few days before Andy’s son was born.
While the arrival of the new family member may have curtailed Andy’s role as a player it certainly did not lessen his contribution off the field. And has been an efficient and painstaking Club Secretary of Killen Rangers for a remarkable thirty-two years – in fact every year since the Club was founded. This is almost unprecedented in Fermanagh & Western football and in all likelihood unmatched throughout the province. Andy says he has no intention of stepping down yet, with typical modesty, he says he will continue as long as his Club wants him.
Andy has, of course, made a huge contribution to the Fermanagh & Western as well. He has been Killen Rangers’ Representative to the League and Association since 1987 and has frequently been elected to the Management Committee of both bodies – he currently serves on the Management Committee of the Association and in addition is a Trustee.
Andy says himself that he is not to seek the limelight but his quiet contribution to football in this area is valued all the more because of that very quality and he fully deserves his place tonight as one of the first group of Fermanagh & Western Merit Award Winners.
Paul Cassidy’s involvement in Irvinestown Wanderers can be said to be all embracing - a distinguished playing career has been followed by a deep involvement in the Club at administrative and managerial level.
He is, by common consent, Irvinestown Wanderer’s greatest ever Player and his performances during the ‘80s and ‘90s in the famous ‘Red & White’ made him one of the best Players locally. He was a footballer’s footballer who always played the game the way it deserved to be played and it won him respect from all of his contemporaries.
Paul was the protégé of the late irrepressible Pete Keane who guided the Club from its reformation in Season 1976/77 to a prominent position in the Fermanagh & Western.
It was as a talented 15 year old in Season 1976/77 that Paul first left an imprint on the local sporting scene when he helped the recently reformed Wanderers to win the Championships of Divisions 4, 3 and 2 in consecutive Seasons, However they were unable to make it an unprecedented 4 different Divisonal titles in four years as they finished runners-up in Division 1 in Season 1979/80 to Lisbellaw United – the dominant force in Fermanagh & Western circles at that time. Two more runners-up positions were achieved before Paul completed his collection of League Winners Medals in Season 1986/87 when his beloved Wanderers won the Division 1 Championship for the first time and two years later he captained them to their second Mercer League title. Season 1986/87 was indeed a memorable one for the Bawnacre based side as they joined the ranks of ‘Double Winners’ by defeating neighbouring Ballinamallard United in the Mulhern Cup Final.
His appointment as Player/Manager (and subsequently Manager) was a natural progression and his ability to motivate Players, his grasp of tactics and his passion to succeed was evidenced as he masterminded two memorable Irish Junior Cup successes in Seasons 2000/01 and 2003/04. The magnitude of the latter achievement cannot be overstated as he brought his charges from the relative obscurity of Division 2 to the pinnacle of Junior Football
Following his departure from the Managerial Hot Seat Paul devoted his efforts to his Club’s Underage Section where the development of skills was paramount and it is no coincidence that the current Irvinestown Wanderers side that he is back managing contains many of the most talented young players in the local Game today.
Paul is also an outstanding Administrator whose talents have not been confined to his Club where he has periodically been Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer. He has served as his Club’s Representative on the local Football League / Association Management Committees and for two seasons he was an Assistant Secretary with both Organisations. He also brought tremendous improvements during his brief tenure as Secretary of the Fermanagh Milk Cup Committee.
There is no doubt that Paul has rendered outstanding service to local Football - his contribution has been truly immense - and he has left an indelible mark on his Club and on those fortunate enough to have known him.
He is a very worthy recipient tonight of one of the League’s three inaugural Merit Awards.
The Fermanagh & Western has always been a League that has been driven by personalities. One of the most colourful presences in the League over the past few decades has been Pat Chesters who has long been one of its best Referees. His has been an incredible journey and when he eventually calls it a day it will be without an ounce of regret.
Prior to refereeing his playing days were served with Belmont Boys, Kelvin United, Sion Mills, Omagh United, Kirklands, Dunbreen Rovers (with whom he won a Mulhern Cup Winners Medal in 1968) and Orchard Villa.
When his playing days came to an end Pat regularly brought his eldest son Patrick to watch Drumrallagh play and his first taste of actual refereeing came when he was coerced into officiating on occasion’s when a referee was not appointed or did not turn up.
Pat officially took charge of his first match in March 1977 when renumeration was negligible (his first Match Fee was £2.00) and Refereeing was never seen as an attractive vocation. He chose to ply his trade totally in Junior Football and was never tempted to officiate at a higher level.
39 wonderful years (Pat’s own words) and some 1,500 + matches later he is now a ‘household name’ in football circles respected by Players, Managers, Coaches and Supporters alike. He never distanced himself from Players many of whom found him to be an excellent Referee, forthright, honest and most importantly receptive to badinage.
During the course of his long Refereeing career Pat has had charge of a Mulhern Cup Final (1986), Top Four Final (1990/91), Lowry-Corry Cup Final (1996) and numerous BKYL, NIBFA and NISFA Cup Finals. He has also referred occasional matches in the Milk Cup and regular matches in the Foyle Cup over the past 20 years.
Referees do not really get the recognition that their careers deserve. Not so in Pat’s case and he has received a number of Awards – chief among them being the coveted NIRA Chairman’s Award in 2012. Pat was also the subject of an episode of the recent BBC 1’s series ‘True North’ which accurately portrayed him as a Football Man and a local one at that.
For Pat Football is something to enjoy and outside of refereeing he is a fervent collector of Football Memorabilia and a very enthusiastic Supporter of Derry City.
Despite the tremendous success he has achieved as a Match Official he never overstated his role and has always been keen to pass on his experience and the best of advice to Refereeing Colleagues in a friendly and humble manner. He is a role model for all up-and- coming Referees and he will leave a great legacy for succeeding generations.
Pat’s dedication and commitment to his craft has been an inspiration to all and we are grateful for his contribution to our League.