GAA Football

Kelm likely to play for Fermanagh in 2020, but no soccer duo

Ultan Kelm's move to the AFL has been delayed as he rehabilitates from a hip injury, and Fermanagh boss Kieran Donnelly expects that Kelm will play for the county in 2022.

FERMANAGH manager Kieran Donnelly expects to have Ultan Kelm in county colours in 2022, but admits supporters might have a long wait before seeing two of the county’s other bright young talents.

Kelm had been due to join AFL side Fremantle Dockers this autumn but his move has been pushed back until the end of the current Australian Rules season as he rehabilitates from a troublesome hip injury.

The Erne Gaels clubman is part of a rehab programme at Santry Sports Clinic and Donnelly is hopeful that his recovery will be swift enough and effective enough to return him to the levels he displayed in the early days of his inter-county career.

“He’s been carrying an injury and managing that injury. He’s gonna go away and try to get that cleared up and back playing again at the highest level, and then it [the move] is being reviewed at the end of this year for the following season.

“He’s a very mature lad. In the one or two years before the injury when he was at himself, he was one of our best players.

“I’d be pretty sure when he rehabs that injury, his full focus will be on being back performing for us with a view to that move.

“It’s his focus to try and be a professional athlete, but I think he’d be very keen to get back and performing for us first.”

He won’t, however, be able to call on the services of Darragh McBrien and Micheal Glynn.

The pair were key links on the St Michael’s Enniskillen team that won the school’s first Hogan Cup in 2019.

In the decider against Naas CBS, they scored 1-8 between them, with McBrien hitting 1-1 and free-taker Glynn kicking 0-7, five of them from dead balls.

But both have chosen since then to pursue their soccer careers.

The duo are both at Irish League outfit Dungannon Swifts, albeit Glynn is on loan from Derry City.

McBrien was signed on a three-year deal by the Swifts from Ballinamallard United in the summer, having been on the radar of a number of Irish League clubs including Glenavon and Cliftonville.

Glynn was bought to Derry by Ruaidhri Higgins in February and has been out on loan to the Swifts since the start of this season.

Neither made an appearance for their respective GAA clubs, Glynn with winners Derrygonnelly and McBrien with semi-finalists Belnaleck, in this year’s championship.

That St Michael’s team has provided goalkeeper Sean McNally and defenders Luke Flanagan and Josh Largo-Ellis to the Fermanagh senior ranks already.

Donnelly hopes there is still more to come but admits that McBrien and Glynn are unlikely to play in the near future.

“They would have been key men. Hopefully they will return some day to contribute to the county because they were exceptional in that [St Michael’s] run.

“At the minute I haven’t spoken to them, purely for the fact they didn’t play for their clubs this year because they weren’t allowed to because they were under contract. Maybe some day down the line I’ll make some contact with them, definitely.

“St Michael’s success was great but success at underage level doesn’t guarantee you’re gonna step on to that next level, because it does be a massive step.

“There are some exceptional footballers in that age group. We have the likes of Josh Largo-Ellis and Luke Flanagan who stepped on last year and proved they could adapt to that level, both exceptional young talents and in terms of their focus and attitude.

“It’s like any good team coming through, if you can take four or five from it and add them to the more experienced players, you’d be happy enough.”

Kieran Donnelly could have been forgiven for burying his head in his hands on Saturday afternoon after Fermanagh were pulled out alongside Tyrone for next year’s preliminary round Ulster Championship tie.

The All-Ireland champions are the opposite of strangers to the Omagh CBS teacher, who has had “pretty much all the west Tyrone boys” that were involved in the Red Hands’ success through his hands in the school.

But once he had settled into looking at it, the Brookeborough native began to turn the idea around in his head.

“When the draw came out, it’s a tough draw, no doubt about it, but when you sit back and reflect, you’ve a chance to get the All-Ireland champions into Brewster Park and it’s not every day you get that.

“It brings a sense of excitement as well. To pit yourself against the best in Ireland is a serious challenge. If that doesn’t motivate a player, what can?

“There’s no doubt it’s an extremely tough draw. They’ve proven to be an excellent team last year, really ticking all the boxes, physically, skill-wise as well. It’s one we’ll look forward to.

“It was massive to have that championship draw at home. Brewster Park is somewhere Fermanagh have prided themselves on this last number of years in turning it into a home venue that teams don’t like to come to.

“There’s a great atmosphere at it, it plays as a nice tight ground with the stand being close to the pitch, so it always gives that extra wee buzz around the ground.

“Our main focus will be the league. It’s a really competitive league this year. Even the teams that have come up, Antrim and Louth, with the management teams they have, no doubt they’ll be very organised and physically fit and well-prepared.

“The fact we have those three games at home gives us a chance to build up an unbeaten record in our home venue.”

Derrygonnelly will represent the county in the Ulster senior club series on Saturday afternoon when they go in against Tyrone champions Dromore, while Erne Gaels also face their Red Hand counterparts Moortown in the intermediate grade on Sunday.

Donnelly has left players from those clubs to their own devices for now.

“We’re still at the trial stages and we’ve been looking at all the different players the last week or two. Any players still involved in club championships, we’ve left completely alone.

“The Derrygonnelly lads, the Enniskillen lads aren’t back in yet after losing the final, and the likes then of Belleek, have all been left alone to focus on that.”

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