Fenlon: Pairing has given game here a huge lift

Owen Heary and Pat Fenlon.

Aidan Fitzmaurice

ONE change has already been implemented by the new managerial duo in charge of the senior national team.

While Martin O'Neill's predecessor repeatedly stated his ham-fisted thought that "there is no league in Ireland", O'Neill's new sidekick, Roy Keane, used a radio interview earlier this week to make a defence of the League of Ireland, stating that his spell in the league with Cobh Ramblers played a big part in his early success as a player.

And Pat Fenlon believes that the appointment of the duo has already given a lift to the whole game in Ireland.

Fenlon is currently out of the game, so to speak, since his resignation from Hibernians last month, though he will be back in the dugout this weekend to manage a Bohemians XI in a 'tribute' game for his long-serving captain at Bohemians and Shelbourne, Owen Heary.

Fenlon admits he has never come across O'Neill though his links with Keane are stronger, going back two decades when Fenlon and Keane were fellow students on an FAI/FáS course in Dublin, and when he was in charge at Hibs out-of-work Corkman would visit, and the two swapped stories.

But Fenlon would like to get a first-hand view of the dynamic between Keane and O'Neill.

"I'd love to have 10 minutes with them in the dressing room to see how it works," Fenlon said.

"I don't think it will be a problem – the two of them are professionals and are good people and they want to do well. You look at the pedigree and the two of them as players were fantastic. Martin as a manager is fantastic and Roy did a great job in his first year. I think they will be a breath of fresh air and everybody in the country has got a huge lift from it. I'm really looking forward to seeing how it works.

"In fairness, Trapattoni did a good job initially when he was here and I could never be critical of him because of who he is and what he has done in the game, but this has given everybody in the game in Ireland a lift. Genuine Irish people in the game in Ireland have got a lift from it. We don't need Roy Keane and Martin O'Neill watching League of Ireland games, that's not what it's about, but you know that they have an interest in it.

"I heard Roy on the radio, saying about going through the underage structures to make sure things are in place there, and there are no better people to be doing that. They are utter professionals, they know how things are done, they had all their careers at the top level," added Fenlon.

"Roy's a football man. He's an Irish football man which is even better. He's been in the league, he knows what it's about.


"There is a lot made of can players play out of the league? There's probably none at the moment that can play on the national team but there are a hell of a lot on the national team who have played in the League of Ireland! That's the key, to make sure we can keep producing them. It can make the league better if we can produce more players of quality," he added.

For Fenlon, this is currently a case of downtime as he's assessing his options since his exit from Hibs.

He says he's keen to get back to work and stands over his Hibs record.

"I just felt it was the right thing to do from my point of view and from the club's point of view. Hopefully I'll be proven right," he says of his decision to quit.

But he has one game to take care of this weekend as he's part of Sunday's tribute to his ex-skipper Heary, one of the most-decorated players in the league who never got a move abroad.

"He's probably one of the players who missed the opportunity to go across the water and probably deserved to. If he had been four or five years younger, I probably would have taken him to Hibs," says Fenlon.

hA Bohemians XI will play a Shelbourne XI in a tribute game for Owen Heary at Dalymount Park on Sunday, 3pm.