Merit Award Recipients - 2017
Since its establishment in 2012 a total of eleven persons, who have made an outstanding contribution to Fermanagh & Western Football, have been inducted into the League’s Hall of Fame. Last Season the Selection Committee opted not to nominate and enshrine any person into the Hall of Fame in 2017 but did nominate Cecil Givan, Tony McGourty and David Wheeler to be recipients of Merit Awards.
All three recipients, who have demonstrated attributes including longevity, integrity, sportsmanship and good character were honoured at an Awards Dinners which was held in the Killyhevlin Hotel’s Riverside Suite on Friday 24th February. Once again the Dinner was a huge success and a memorable occasion for those who were in attendance and especially Members of the Given, McGourty and Wheeler Families.
The following are the orations given by Roy Cathcart, Chairman of the Fermanagh & Western Football Association and Neil Jardine, Chairman of the Fermanagh & Western Football League at the Dinner:
Distinguished guests, Ladies & Gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to introduce our first Merit Award Winner this evening Cecil Givan.
Cecil has been a fixture in Refereeing Circles in the Fermanagh & Western for 42 years having been persuaded to take up the whistle by George Parkinson, the founder of the Fermanagh & Western Referees’ Association in 1975. His first match in charge was on 28th April when Enniskillen Town United Colts defeated Dromore II by 5 goals to 1 at Celtic Park. His last match in charge was Lisnaskea Rovers Reserves v Orchard Farm Reserves two weeks ago. In between these 2 appointments Cecil has officiated at 914 games, each match carefully chronicled in the same 10p notebook that contains his first outing. In addition to Fermanagh & Western games he regularly officiated at the Coffey Cup and McCammond Cup Summer Competitions. In those matches, a total of 4381 goals have been scored, an average of almost 5 goals per game. So, if want to be assured of seeing goals at a match just check to see where Cecil will be on a Saturday! Indeed goalless draws are rare and the last one readily popped into his mind when speaking with Cecil, Irvinestown Wanderers Reserves v Mountjoy United III earlier this Season.
Although Cecil has been a Lisnaskea man since his arrival in 1970 to take up a teaching post at the High School his roots are in Aughnacloy and this is where his first interest in the game was nurtured. Cecil played regularly for Aughnacloy United who played in the Greystone & District Summer League, continuing the association after taking up his teaching post. During his time at the school, Cecil served as a Youth Club Leader for 40 years alongside ex Enniskillen Rangers great Tom McFarland and a certain Bob Jardine, assisting with the preparation of teams at various levels to compete in the Fermanagh Youth Council 5-a-side tournaments organised by a youthful George Beacom. Cecil’s easy manner and temperament have made him a popular and respected figure amongst our Member Clubs over the years and this is partly attributed to his tutor when he completed his course 42 years ago. Jimmy Haughey was an Irish League Referee and Instructor and his parting shot to the new recruits was in the event of doubt always refer back to the unwritten rule - Common Sense! The respect afforded to Cecil is reciprocated as he stated his utmost esteem for the Teams he faces each week, particularly in the lower Leagues where Managers struggle to get Teams out due to work commitments, players moving up to Reserve or First Teams and then have to organise transport, kits, put up nets and lift the subs to pay the Referee, all this for the love of the game. This is illustrated as when I asked him about the
memorable games in that time Cecil stated that he prepares the same way for each game, mindful that the two Teams have also prepared and planned for the match and that he enjoys each and every outing in its own right.
Cecil is a committed Christian and holds a Phd in Theology gained in 1992; therefore is probably unique in being the only Dr refereeing in this Association. Putting his faith into practice after reaching the significant mark of 500 games, he took the decision to donate all his Match Fees to charity. A rough calculation, allowing for the changes in Referees’ Fees, would estimate an overall donation to charities primarily working with disadvantaged and vulnerable children in developing countries in this time of close to £10,000.00.
Cecil has been previously inducted into the Referees’ Association Hall of Fame and recalls an interview he did with the Whistler Magazine in 2003 in which he was asked how long he would continue; he stated that his then boots were showing signs of wear and when they gave up maybe he would as well. Thankfully those boots have been replaced and show no sign of wearing out just yet! We look forward to your continued presence in local Football as you approach you 70th birthday and move toward the milestone of 1,000 games.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I hope this brief synopsis of Cecil will give you an insight as to why the Fermanagh & Western Football League have decided to honour him tonight and I think you will concur that we have made a wise decision.
Tony McGourty‘s playing record in Fermanagh and Western football spans a scarcely believable and probably unequalled six decades – the Sixties, the
Seventies, the Eighties, the Nineties, the Noughties and this present decade. It started for Tony when he was at the Tech in 1968, and he was spotted by Sammy McFrederick and persuaded, along with a number of his friends from Belcoo, to join Lisbellaw United. Thus began a very close association between Lisbellaw and Becoo/ Blacklion. On at least one occasion, Tony recalls, an entire Lisbellaw United Reserve XI came from the two border villages. He remembers well his first game, against Maguiresbridge, and playing against Enniskillen Corinthians on the old Broadmeadow pitch. Lisbellaw United, of course played at Cloghcor in those days, and while Tony admits it gave them an advantage, he does add that they won just as many games away from home. It was a golden age for Lisbellaw United – between 1975 and 1981, six Seasons, they were Mercer League Champions five times and they also won the Mulhern Cup five times in eight seasons during the same period and Tony has the medals to prove it.
He was also present when Lisbellaw United won the Irish Junior Cup in 1978 at Dungannon, beating Loughgall in a memorable Final. Later in his Lisbellaw United career he appeared in a number of Reihill Cup Finals and also in his trophy cabinet there is a Division Four Championship medal, won while playing with Derrygonnelly United in 1996/97. Apparently Derrygonnelly manager Danny Redmond persuaded him to leave Lisbellaw United in the twilight of his playing career by saying, “Give us a year before you finish.”
In fact he returned to Lisbellaw United and played on for another fourteen years, turning out largely for the Reserves and Third team until 2011 when, at the age of fifty nine, he finally retired from playing. He was an obvious choice for the Fermanagh and Western Team of the Century at the Centenary Dinner in 2007, not just because of his longevity in the Game but because he was certainly one of the best full backs ever to play here.
Over the years he performed a number of roles for Lisbellaw United. He was Player/Manager for the First Team, he managed the Thirds and he was Club Chairman for a period. He says that he was very lucky to escape serious injury during all that time, with only a broken ankle to keep him out of action for a spell, and undoubtedly his attitude to training and fitness contributed to his longevity. He still retains his connection with the Club, spectating and supporting whenever he can.
As well as soccer, Tony played Gaelic football for Belcoo, playing in six Finals in the Eighties, though he says rather ruefully that he lost them all.
If Tony hung up his football boots a few years ago he was never going to remain inactive and instead he purchased running shoes. Since 2007 he has completed no fewer than twelve Marathons, all over Ireland and as far afield as Malta. Even more impressively and importantly he started and inspired the McNean Runners - the Oisin McGrath Running Club.
Tony has always been regarded by his opponents as a highly skilled Player, a great competitor and above all a supreme sportsman. In all his years of Football, he was only ever cautioned twice; indeed he can claim never to have been shown a yellow card, because his two cautions were received before yellow cards were introduced. For that reason alone he is a worthy recipient of the Fermanagh and Western Merit Award, but in fact the example he has shown to all during those six decades ensure that his contribution to our local Game must be recognised here tonight.
Distinguished guests, Ladies & Gentlemen, our final recipient this evening is Lisnaskea Rovers stalwart, Davy Wheeler.
Whilst it is a pleasure to speak about all our nominees over the past years and tonight the award to Davy has a particular significance to me on a personal level as I have known him all my life and indeed would have played my first Youth Football under his tutelage.
Davy’s association with Lisnaskea Rovers began in 1969 when attempts were being made to re-invigorate the Club following the emergence of a rival Team, Lough Erne Rangers. Rovers continued through the seventies as a mid-table First Division Team with their most notable success coming in 1978 when they defeated Irish Junior Cup Winners, Lisbellaw United in the Coffey Cup Final, at the time, one of the most prestigious Summer Competitions featuring Teams from Dungannon to Monaghan.
However fortunes changed and the end of the 1981-82 Season saw the Rovers relegated to Division 2. At this time, Davy had suffered from a dislocated shoulder which was proving problematic, on occasions having to be put back in place on the pitch. Having completed his IFA Prelim Coaching Badge in 1981, the current equivalent of a UEFA B Licence, one of the first in the area to do so, Davy was persuaded to move into a management role and took up the position of First Team Coach along with the new Manager, my late father Bob Jardine. It was at this time as thirteen year old boy that I got to know Davy well on his regular visits to our house and following the Rovers through that historic Season. In a twenty-six games Season the Fermanagh Shield was won with a record of 23 wins and 3 draws, averaging around 4 goals per game. A third round Junior Cup defeat away to
Rathfriland was one of only 2 defeats suffered in that Season. Following a Mulhern Cup campaign in which four Division 1 Teams were vanquished, the Final was lost in a replay 2-0 to Lisbellaw United after a goalless first match; incidentally, the last time Lisbellaw United won the Mulhern Cup and their last Final appearance until last Season.
Davy took on the role of Manager role in the following Season continuing in that position for a number of years. At the same time many of his efforts were being channelled into setting up a viable Youth structure and in the late 80’s Castle Park Youth developed fielding Teams at all age groups in the then Youth Section of the Fermanagh & Western. This structure continued to develop and grow with Teams travelling to various Competitions all over Europe and even in America.
Davy’s acknowledged prowess as a Coach was further confirmed when in 1992 he was selected as the first Manager of the Fermanagh Milk Cup side who at that time only competed at U-16 level. Notable alumni of that side included Bob Carroll, John Cutler, Davy Williamson and Rory Judge and the quality extended to Davy’s assistants namely Greg Turley and George Elliott.
As ever Davy’s preparation of the Team ensured that they were not simply going to make up the numbers and in their opening game drew with Heart of Midlothian the previous years’ Winners at Anderson Park in Coleraine.
Davy’s contribution to the Rovers continued unabated through the 90’s combining coaching duties with administrative roles including that of Club Secretary. The start of the new millennium witnessed the greatest achievement in the history of Lisnaskea Rovers when a team consisting almost entirely of graduates from the Youth system defeated holders Enniskillen Rangers 4-3 in the first all Fermanagh & Western Irish Junior Cup Final played in front of probably the largest ever attendance at such a match at Ferney Park. This was undoubtedly due reward and recognition for all the thankless hours Davy had put in over the years to ensure Football in the area survived and flourished.
At this time, Davy’s skills as an administrator were also to the fore. Following the untimely death of Brendan Keogh in 1999 Davy took on the role of Chairman of the Fermanagh & Western Youth League which had been formed the previous year fulfilling this role for almost 10 years, a challenging period for a new organisation. However Davy took it all in his stride and established the renamed Brendan Keogh Youth League to the respected position it now holds in local Football.
Davy’s contribution to Football is ongoing currently occupying the role of Chairman at Lisnaskea Rovers and acting as co-ordinator for the Youth Section which continues to flourish and expand. Once again this is only a short resume of the contribution made to local Football by our recipient but I think all present will agree that Davy’s service is very worthy of the accolade now bestowed upon him.