"Good luck to him from our end." Fermanagh manager Kieran Donnelly hopes Ultan Kelm goes on to success with Freemante Dockers after swapping GAA for AFL
FERMANAGH manager Kieran Donnelly is obviously disappointed that he won’t be able to name Ultan Kelm in his first squad but the new Erne boss has wished Ireland’s latest AFL recruit all the best Down Under.
After impressing at a series of trials, Kelm signed for the Freemantle Dockers this week and Donnelly, who took over the reins of his native county from Ryan McMenamin in September, predicts a successful future for the Erne Gaels clubman in Aussie Rules.
“It has been in the pipeline for the last two or three years and Covid had stopped the process for him,” said Donnelly.
“It had been mooted this past month or so that it was going to happen and I’ve spoken to Ultan. He had been a real find for the county and one of our best players since he emerged under Rory Gallagher’s tenure in the Ulster final run (2018) as a young player.
“One of the things that always stood out with Ultan was his running power. I remember watching him a couple of years ago playing against a Monaghan team that was at the peak of their powers and they struggled to handle his runs from the half-back line.
“That is a massive part of his game and it’s probably suited to Australian Rules football too. They did mention that his stats were excellent in terms of physicality and power. He has all those attributes and he has wanted to do it for the past few years and it has come to fruition for him.
“It is disappointing but, from his point of view, the chance to live a professional lifestyle would be hard to turn down so good luck to him from our end. He’s a nice lad and he deserves that bit of success.”
Kelm won’t be involved next season but Fermanagh fans will hope that the Jones brothers (Ryan and Conall) and the Corrigan brothers (Tomas and Ruairi) will be on the panel after they missed last year.
“There hasn’t been any contact made at all yet,” said Donnelly.
“We’re just going round all the club games to see what’s out there. That’s as much as we have been doing as a management team. We want to see who’s playing well and who will add to the squad.
“Like any county you want your best players on board and we as a county have to maximise everybody we have. We need everybody on board and being Fermanagh manager is a challenge I’m looking forward to because if we have our best players out there we can be competitive.”
Donnelly guided Scotstown to the Monaghan championship and the Ulster club final in 2018. He will take Cavan Gaels until the end of this season and after that his sole focus will be on his native county. He has been impressed with what he has seen of the Erne championship so far.
“There are good players in Fermanagh and the championship is competitive,” he said.
“Derrygonnelly had a lot of success over this last few years until Ederney pipped them last year, and deservedly so, but it has been competitive and there are a lot of teams emerging as contenders.”