Hall of Fame and Merit Awards 2020
March 07, 2020
On Friday the 28th February in the Killyhevlin Hotel, Enniskillen the Fermanagh and Western Association & League honored 3 special people for all they have done for local football. Jim McClintock, Ced McAleer and Gerard McClintock all recieved deserved Merit Awards.
Ladies & gentlemen, our first recipient of night is Enniskillen Town United’s Jim McClintock, better known to all in football circles as “Tabs”. I asked Tabs where the nickname had originated and was told that was a secret and I wasn’t getting the chance to tell everyone tonight!
Tabs was a gifted central mid-fielder, the archetypal box to box player who never gave less than 100% on the pitch. Graeme Souness was once famously referred to as “The iron fist in a velvet glove” and it would not be unreasonable to describe Tabs in the same terms.
Tabs first competitive football was for St Michael’s Youth Club under Clive Irvine in five-a-side tournaments run by George Beacom for the Fermanagh Youth Council. He then progressed to play U-15 level under the late Jim Keenan at Enniskillen Rangers in the Fermanagh & Western Youth Competitions, paying sixpence to play. Tabs debut in the Fermanagh & Western was for Rangers Swifts at Bellnaleck in 1975, playing alongside a certain Roy Cathcart. A move to play with Roadhouse SSC followed until the club was banned from the Association in the 77/78 season, resulting in a merger with Enniskillen Town United. Tabs and Town’s first brush with success came in 1980 when they reached their first Mulhern Cup Final, losing by the only goal of the game to a Lisbellaw United team who secured their fourth success in five years. A move to Portadown in the Irish League followed where Tabs spent two seasons, predominately in the Reserves but managed a number of Irish League appearances, travelling up each week with Don Weir from Lisbellaw. However, lack of opportunities and tired of travelling, Tabs moved back to the Fermanagh & Western, signing for the persuasive Pete Keane at Irvinestown Wanderers. Pete was building an impressive team with the likes of Paul Keenan, Paul Cassidy, Tommy Fiddis, Alan Johnston all coming through and Tabs was convinced success would have come sooner to this side but for the lack of a top keeper. Tabs moved back home to the “Town” and was appointed 1st team manager at the start of the 83/84 season, remaining in the role until stepping down in October 84. He had also taken up a place on the Management Committee of the club, serving for a period of twenty years in various roles, including that of Chairman. In this period, Tabs was heavily involved with John Illand, Paul Keavney and Scone in the development of the Youth Structure, bringing through players who would serve the club over the intervening years and also those who would go on to higher level. 1990 was a landmark year for Enniskillen Town United who secured their first major silverware by beating a stellar Shelbourne side in the Mulhern Cup Final 2-0 following a replay, the first match having finished in a 1 all draw. Tabs credits this success as a turning point for the club, instilling a belief in the current players and ambition in those emerging for the youth that the Town could compete with the successful teams of the era and not being constantly in their shadow. This was further evidenced in 1994 when the Irish Junior Cup returned to the Fermanagh & Western for the first time in 16 years, a success quickly followed by a second Mulhern Cup, defeating local rivals Enniskillen Rangers 1-0 at Ballinamallard. Tabs continued to star in a Town team who were now established as a major force in local football. 1996 saw a third Mulhern final, with Tabs in his second spell as manager, against a very able Ballinamallard United Reserves team emerging victorious again. In the following season, the quest for a first Mercer League Title was within touching distance, Enniskillen Town, Dergview and Ballinamallard United Reserves all finished on equal points, necessitating a three-way play-off. However, that elusive Mercer medal was not to be for Tabs as the sky blues lost both matches with Dergview retaining their title. Missing out on the title had a detrimental effect on the team who finished 10th in the table the following season, significant as this was the last year of a fourteen team league and four teams were relegated, Town beating Sperrin Athletic in their last game to preserve Division 1 status. Tabs secured his final senior medal in 2000, Enniskillen Town United defeating recently crowned Junior Cup Winners Lisnaskea Rovers in a tight final at Ferney Park. Tabs recalls that Michael McGovern had excelled in goals throughout the season prior to his move to Celtic, but he had dropped him to the bench for the final as he was concerned about the physical approach of Rovers with a very young keeper playing. Tabs stepped down as manager following this and limited his playing appearances to the Reserves, lining out in goals in the Reihill Cup final the following year.
Footballing retirement followed, the pressures of his career in the NIFRS and travelling to Derry for shifts for all those years saw Tabs transfer his skills to the golf course, were unsurprisingly success followed him. Tabs is the current President of Castle Hume Golf Club and has remarked on how many of the friendships and rivalries born on the football pitch have transferred to the fairways and greens.
Tabs has now retired from the Fire Service, having reached the rank of District Commander. In 2007, the Association celebrated its centenary and as part of the programme, a team of the century was selected from nominations and Jim “Tabs” McClintock was given the no 8 shirt, a fantastic recognition of his standing in the game, further enhanced by the presentation of tonight’s Merit Award.
Ced McLeer has been a member of Enniskillen Rangers for more than fifty years, but a look at his contribution to the club in that half century shows that he is much more than a mere member.
Ced came to Enniskillen in January 1969 to work in STC. He had played for his hometown team Lisburn Rangers Youth, and was very quickly persuaded by two of his new workmates, Rangers Legend Sandy Fulton and Derek “The Babe” Fallis, to come to training – Thursday nights in the Tech gym. Ced played for the Reserves that season, the first when there was a F&W Division Two, as an uncompromising full back and he was a member of the Reserves team which lost a Division Two Playoff against Victoria Bridge at Celtic Park. His style, he says, was based on the Eleventh Commandment: “Thou shalt not pass.” Over the next few seasons he also filled in occasionally as an emergency goalkeeper, even turning out for in nets for the First Team.
He made his mark in team management soon afterwards. In 1977 he managed Rangers to the Mercer League title and to the Final of the Mulhern Cup , when Rangers lost to Lisbellaw Utd at the High School Field, and the Mulhern Cup the following season with a victory over Lisnarick, a match played at Lisnaskea .
Next he resumed playing while managing Rangers Swifts, the Third team, and later the Reserves.
Around this time Rangers Youth football had lapsed slightly, so Ced stepped down from Senior Football and revitalised the set up by starting an Academy on Saturday mornings at Lackaboy for boys and girls aged 5 to 15. This was highly successful operation with large numbers attending and while the Rangers First Team had undergone something of a decline during the early years of the century, with relegation to the Third Division, many of Ced’s Youth team were influential in the climb back all the way to the top, with Joe Doogan and Andrew Johnston, for example, ultimately winning Mercer and IFA Junior Cup medals.
As Treasurer, Ced put Rangers Youth on a sound financial footing, budgeting wisely and effectively.
At the same time as working with Rangers Youth on Saturday mornings, managing every team from Under 11 to Under 15, Ced was the physio/trainer/team attendant for the First Team on Saturday afternoons. He was in attendance when Rangers did the domestic treble in 1988, reached the Junior Cup Final in 1989, and won the League three seasons in succession from 1990 to 1992, under Denzil McDaniel’s and then Paul Keenan’s management, as well as two Mulhern Cup successes in 1993 and 1995.
Even as the First Team struggled on the field in the years after the Treble of League, Mulhern and Junior Cup in 1999, Ced was heavily involved in the negotiations over the sale of the lease of the Derrychara ground and the protracted process which resulted in the development of the new ground at the Ball Range. With that development has come a host of new roles and responsibilities, and many of these have been taken on willingly by Ced. It’s difficult to list the various parts of his job description, but he is certainly a groundsman, a grasscutter, a cleaner, a painter, a turnstile operator and even a DJ – he chooses/finds which radio station to play over the loudspeaker before each match and at half time. He is the first to open up and the last to leave each Saturday that Rangers play at home, and he never misses an away match.
As Assistant Treasurer of the Senior Club, he is an indefatigable fundraiser, particularly with the hoardings at the Ball Range, where his business experience and contacts are vital.
His role in football extends beyond Enniskillen Rangers: for the last eight years he has been the Treasurer of the Brendan Keogh Youth League where again his meticulous account keeping and business acumen are greatly valued. He is responsible for the League’s sponsorship, and it is largely down to him that the BKYL’s finances are in such a healthy state.
The term “One Club Man” is sometimes used a little loosely – but in Ced’s case it is entirely justified. For more than half a century he has been devoted to his club, filling practically every role and office within the club, from uncompromising full back to Chairman. Because of this devotion, and the wider impact which that devotion has had, Ced is certainly a worthy recipient of the Fermanagh and Western’s Merit Award.
Ladies and gentlemen, our final award tonight goes to Gerard “Busty” McClintock, who has to settle for the fact that he is the second member of his family to receive this award. I had a little more success in eliciting how Busty’s nickname came about – Gerard described how he was always a heavy child and the moniker has been with from the age of 3, to the extent that many people who know him would not know his given name.
Busty has early memories of climbing the fence at the Broadmeadow to avoid paying to watch the game, although the caretaker Jack Meehan was aware of the practice and took payment in kind, getting the miscreants to clean out the changing rooms after the match in order to be released.
During the formative years after its foundation in 1970, Enniskillen Town United had no reserve team, so Busty started his football career at Lisnarick as a fleet footed right winger but soon realised that he was too slow and took up a residency at left back. Busty recalls his time at Lisnarick in the seventies with great fondness, playing with some wonderful players such as Ronnie Elliott, Chris Brennan and Basil Wallace to name a few. Even though Busty was lining out for Lisnarick, he still served on the Town Committee from 1976, serving as Secretary for two years until 1979, his replacement being a certain Gerard Connolly. Shortly afterwards, Busty signed for the Town starting a period of unbroken service to the present day. After stopping playing, Busty took up scouting duties on behalf of Glenavon Manager Terry Nicholson, for the grand fee of a club tie and lapel badge. Busty ferried a number of local lads up and down to Lurgan for training and matches; the players got expenses but not Busty! The only success achieved by Busty on the playing field came in 1985, when a Town Reserves team managed by him won Division 3, the first ever title secured by the club. Busty then took the reigns of the first team in 1987 only because no-one else wanted it, the team having returned to Division 1 as champions. Busty’s limited success as player was not replicated in management, the first major honour came in 1990 with the Mulhern Cup success against Shelbourne. Busty had pulled together a side combining experience and youth and his finest moment in management came in 1994 at Loughgall when the Junior Cup was secured for the first time. The achievement can be put into context by the some of the teams vanquished along the way, Lurgan Celtic, Holywood Rec and Oxford United. This triumph was quickly followed by a second Mulhern Cup defeating arch local rivals Enniskillen Rangers, meaning that his team had remained undefeated in cup football for a full season.
Busty stepped away from management but still stayed committed to the club serving in various roles including a number of years as Chairman He is proud of the fact that his son Neil has joined him on the Management Committee to continue the link into a second generation.
Family ties are one of the enduring memories of his time in football that have a special resonance with Busty, recalling the McClintocks, Loves Connollys & Judges at Enniskillen Town, the Keenans at Rangers, the Bensons & Gawleys at Lisnaskea Rovers and the great friendships he made with both team-mates and adversaries over a 50 year involvement in our local game, remembering epic battles with the great Lisbellaw, Rangers, Dergview, Ballinamallard & Irvinestown teams over this period. Busty described Herbie Downey of Maguiresbridge as probably his toughest, hardest opponent over the years and Hoppy (Adrian Hopkins) as the most difficult to play against. He played with and managed many great players but the careers enjoyed by Gary Beckett and Michael McGovern hold a special place in his affections; the fact that two boys could come through his club to enjoy top careers in the senior game.
On a personal note, I worked on sites with Busty for over twenty years and during that time I had the utmost respect for the way he carried out his duties, making sure the site was a safe and good place to work, treating everyone with respect, knowing that only by working as a team, would the tight programmes we were all working to be achieved. However, there were times when it might have been best not to mention football!
Busty has talked much about the friendship and relationships he has benefited from through his involvement with Enniskillen Town United and the game as a whole; but it would also be fair to say that all of us involved have also been enriched by his presence; Busty is universally respected by all who have encountered him over the years. This contribution marks him out as a very worthy recipient of our Merit Award.