Pillar calls on Dubs to allow Fennell move
FORMER Dublin manager Paul 'Pillar' Caffrey waded into the Eamon Fennell controversy yesterday, unequivocally backing the player and telling the Dublin County Board to sort out their transfer "mess."
Heralding Fennell as "the heir apparent to Ciaran Whelan's jersey," Caffrey said: "It's a mess, this whole transfer thing, and it needs to be sorted. We're amateur players and I can understand both sides of the argument, but in limbo is not the place this should be.
"There should be a definite decision made because Eamon Fennell's best years as a midfielder are in the next three or four years.
"He needs to be able to play football with a club and get into the No 9 jersey for Dublin and hold onto it for the summer.
"While I empathise with clubs who've brought up players, if a player makes a decision that, for his own reasons, he wishes to transfer, then I think that has to be acceded to.
"Eamon has sat out a year. His understanding was that if he sat out and sacrificed that year, he would be entitled to transfer. I think it's very unfair that he can't play."
The latest twist in Fennell's long-running attempts to switch clubs came late last month when the county committee was split on his application to move from his native O'Toole's to St Vincent's and county chairman Gerry Harrington used his casting vote to block his transfer.
The player is now taking his situation to the Disputes Resolution Authority (DRA), which is expected to hear his case on Monday night.
Caffrey handed Fennell his senior debut and the player impressed hugely at midfield during the 2008 league, before illness and his transfer problems put him out of the picture last season during Pat Gilroy's first year in charge.
His former inter-county boss revealed that Fennell's attitude particularly impressed him.
"I think Eamon is the heir apparent to Ciaran Whelan's jersey; I always felt that over the last couple of years," Caffrey explained. "We (initially) let him go off the panel because he wasn't measuring up to where we thought he'd go, but what I liked about Eamon was that he kept in touch with Clarkie (selector Paul Clarke) and wanted to know what the weights programme was.
"He kept going and doing exactly what we were doing, so he kept himself in the picture the whole time.
"When he came back in he was a new player and I think this year he's even blossomed more.
"Sometimes adversity can make you much tougher and I think that's probably done that to Eamon. He looks a much tougher guy now."
Caffrey, who will be one of the judges of the 'Hero of the Future' awards during this year's Cadbury U-21 Football Championships, feels that Fennell has the potential to be a first-choice midfielder for the Dubs for the next 10 years.
But he reckoned it's highly unlikely that the iconic Whelan will answer the Dubs' call if asked to come out of retirement this summer, largely because of his physique and the demands of his position.
"It's easier for a corner-forward or a wing half-back, who is at his fighting weight all the time, to step back into the fray, but inter-county training is so intense that, particularly for the big 6ft 4ins guys like Ciaran, it's nearly impossibly to go away for six months and then step back into it," Caffrey said.
Still a keen follower of Dublin's fortunes, Caffrey, who managed the county to four Leinster titles in a row, said their early NFL defeat of Kerry should be taken in context.
"It was great to get that old hoodoo (beating Kerry away) off the backs even if Kerry were well off the pace," he said, singling out for praise the performances to date of Rory O'Carroll and Kevin McMenamon.
"Kevin has been a breath of fresh air. He looks a really exciting prospect and, against Derry, you could see that the crowd are really taken with him. He's a kid who has come through the U-21 system, but suffered cruciate ligament injury and I think he's going to have a big impact this year."