GAA Football

Tracey's Erne support is as strong as ever

Former Fermanagh footballer Colm Bradley chews the fat with long-term sponsor Patsy Tracey about his love of the game and his native county...

PATSY Tracey is sitting in his house. He is thinking. Thinking about his favourite topic in the whole world. Football.

A reminder of his second favourite topic is not far away in the shape of a huge trophy that he won last week, the European Cup of Fishing.

He is more than just a keen angler. He will tell you that he caught the first salmon of the year in two different millennia. Which he did, 1996 and 2002 the years. His wife Carmel has lost her once beautiful conservatory. Patsy (right) has now annexed and converted it into a fly-tying room. She doesn't mind, though.

All manner of colourful plumages are scattered across the floors. Patsy could talk for hours about fishing and flies. He often does. He could talk for an eternity about football. For now though he is musing over a question: how many Fermanagh footballers have passed through the walls and yards of Tracey Concrete?

He is quiet. Eyes fixed to the ceiling. A smile barely creeping onto his face. For a second the thought crosses the mind that he might be losing some of that famous football memory of his.

The one that could tell you who scored the winning point in a festival seven-a-side competition in Trillick in 1983. There was no need to worry however, that memory is alive and well. "I tell you what, you would have a tight team. Paddy McGuinness would be your full-back for starters. 'Clucker' (Ryan McCluskey) was here for a while, he could go centre-half. Neil Cox was here too. Mark Gallagher and Paul Coyle for the full-forward line. "Ryan Keenan, 'Peggy' (Dermot Feely) for goals. Sylvester Mulrone. And Alfie Maguire, you couldn't leave out Alfie, the greatest midfielder in Fermanagh, as he will tell you himself," he said with a laugh.

Patsy and his business Tracey Concrete have been sponsoring the Fermanagh team for a quarter-of-a-century. The then-chairman of the county board, the late John Vesey, asked Patsy to help out with a "few pound" for team expenses. Patsy obliged. The winds were changing in the GAA back then and shirt sponsorship was on the way. When it came in it was to be Tracey Concrete that emblazoned the Fermanagh jersey. It has been there ever since. First and foremost, though, Patsy is a fan. That is where his heart is. "I love football," he said. "I mean I would often be driving along the road and see a match and pull over and watch it. I would travel up and down the country to watch football. I just love it."

It is no exaggeration on his part. You are likely to see his distinctive mop of black curly hair at any particular football occasion. All-Ireland finals. A club championship match in Tyrone. A MacRory Cup match in Inniskeen. A county championship double header in Emmet Park, Lisnaskea. The interview is meandering on. Patsy tells a story of bringing an "employee and friend" from Tracey Concrete, "a proud unionist", to an All-Ireland 'B' final in Carrick-on-Shannon.

He talks with remarkable recall of championship finals won with his native Devenish, to matches he went to as a child to big games he has enjoyed in Croke Park watching Fermanagh.

For Patsy, sponsoring Fermanagh has never been about trophies. It is about football and his county. "I am a Fermanagh fan and I love Fermanagh football," he said. "I have enjoyed being involved over the years and I have got a lot out of it and it is important to support the team when sponsors are not as plentiful maybe as they once were." Patsy stresses that he's only been able to sustain his sponsorship of Fermanagh GAA through the "hard work and dedication" of his staff, past and present.

On Sunday he will have a ticket for the red seats in Brewster Park. The place for VIPs. But he might well pop up anywhere, no doubt deep in conversation with any one of 100 different GAA people.

Because that is what he is after all, a GAA man. And of course he is a bit of a romantic too.

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