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Steady progress

08 December 2006
With the honeymoon period now well and truly over, Monaghan’s newest club is plugging away, determined to establish itself as more than a fleeting sensation. Fergal O’Hanlons made definite progress in 2006, winning competitive adult games for the first time and giving a decent account of themselves in the all-county JFC. And the defiant message from the county town outfit is that there’s plenty more where that came from!

Two-thousand-and-six can be remembered as another historic year for Fergal O’Hanlons GFC. The fledgling Monaghan town club got a few landmark wins on the board and gave Currin plenty to think about in the junior football championship. All in all, it was a satisfactory season for the first team, though there was disappointment in the club when the juvenile side had to be withdrawn from action due to disciplinary problems.

The O’Hanlons also scooped an underage county Spraoi Scor title in the ’recital’ section and club secretary John McAleer is generally upbeat about their overall prospects.
One of the main priorities is to get the club’s facilities up and running. This will require a lot of fundraising and hard work, but only then can the club realise anything close to its full potential. At present, the handicap of playing all matches away from home is a massive burden; and one from which the club needs to be released.
Work is ongoing on the facilities at Mullaghdun, with progress (but not enough…) made on the dressing rooms in ’06 thanks largely to a tremendous amount of voluntary work. But a lot more time, effort and especially finance will be required before the club will be able to host games – an issue that needs to be addressed urgently.

On the playing front, the senior team had an excellent year. They won a few league games, even finishing off their Division Four programme with an excellent 3-9 to 2-11 defeat of Toome at St Victor’s Park. The club’s third win of the year owed a lot to an outstanding contribution from 17-year-old Michael Cawley who fired 1-5 upon his switch to the forwards.
David Ballentine, Charlie Cawley, Danny Mullen, Luke Murray, Georgie Bolton, Charlie Connolly and captain Noel McConnell also starred for Fergal O’Hanlons on the day, as the club racked up its highest score to date – not a bad way to end the year!

In the Monaghan JFC, Fergal O’Hanlons met Currin at Scotstown on Sunday June 4 and gave a spirited display before falling to an unlucky 1-16 to 0-7 defeat. The scoreline may have looked convincing in the end but the relative newcomers certainly gave Dick Clerkin and company plenty to think about, particularly in the first half.
Reflecting on the year, John McAleer notes: “We made progress at senior level as we won some games for the first time. We had no senior team in our first year [2003] and we never won any matches in either 2004 or 2005. It was nice to get the three victories but we also lost a few games that we could have won.” Victory over Monaghan Harps in a real derby battle proved particularly satisfying to everyone associated with the new club. The hope now is that these wins can help nurture belief amongst the players. “We’re still playing every game away from home because our pitch isn’t up to scratch and we’re stuck for funds. But we’re in the process of trying to finish the dressing-rooms and hopefully the next step will be to get showers installed. If we can sort that out, then we should be able to attract more young players,” states the club secretary.

John was bitterly disappointed by the behaviour of the club’s juveniles in ’06: “We started the year with a juvenile team but we had to withdraw due to disciplinary problems. But we’re not going to give up. We hope to attract more young lads once the facilities are in place and we’re also thinking of bringing in players at a much younger age in 2007, perhaps coaching them from U10 level…
“We need those dressing-rooms finished at Mullaghdun. We have a licence to use the pitch but at the moment it’s basically an empty site and we can only use it for training.”
With little or no help from anybody, the club is finding that survival can be quite a struggle. They raise their own funds through a club lotto, race nights, flag days etc. and are currently involved in a fundraising initiative through the Raheen club in Kildare, which will hopefully yield a significant cash injection – IF they can sell 450 tickets (costing E100 each) before February ’07.
The cultural aspect of the club remains extremely important, in keeping with their name and ethos. Scor is central to their existence and the O’Hanlons are funding traditional music classes for the young people of the community in the local resource centre on Monday evenings, with new members always welcome to attend.

“We get around 20 kids a night at the moment,” John reveals. “There’s not an awful lot here for the young people in the area to do and we’re trying to provide them with something different. This is a club initiative and we cover the cost every week. We would like to invite any kids in the area to come over and get involved.”
What about that championship performance against Currin? A good day for the club, even though defeat was their lot? “They did well and were there at half time, although the experience and better-quality players pulled away in the end. They gave them a bit of a scare anyway. If you had put Dick Clerkin on our team it would have been a lot closer!
“We’re considering entering the junior league against other clubs’ first teams next year. I know we’d suffer a few tankings but it might improve us and we might also be able to attract more players. If the disadvantage of playing our ’home’ games away from home was also removed, I think we could manage.”

Brendan McKenna from Emyvale has done an exceptional job as first-team manager for the past two years and plans are that he will be at the helm once more in ’07 as the O’Hanlons continue to defy the odds and move forward in the face of relentless adversity.
The spirit in the club is strong and one can tell that these lads aren’t going to go away! “The main thing is that we need funds because we really are starting from rock bottom. But we have to start somewhere and the hardcore is there. Nobody thought it was going to be easy but we’re entering our fifth season and we’re going to keep things going as best we can,” John promises.
“It’s imperative that we get the development work completed. At the moment, we are drawing mainly from Mullaghmatt and Cortolvin but once we have better facilities in place, we would be able to attract players from Pound Hull, Tully, Beechgrove and other parts of the town - and maybe some non-nationals as well.

“It would be nice to get the juvenile arm up and running again. It was a pity the way things turned out in 2006 but we feel we could bring a fresh batch of lads in and start them from U10 level. If we can start them early, at eight or nine, I’m sure we would have no problem with discipline – but it goes back to the facilities again because we can’t expect parents to send their children to tog out behind a hedge…”

Fergal O’Hanlon’s 50th anniversary takes place on January 1 2007. The new GAA club in Monaghan town is a fitting testament to his legacy and one suspects that the O’Hanlons are imbued with the necessary steely determination to overcome their initial teething problems and establish themselves as a force on the county’s GAA landscape.
The club is a real asset to the local community and deserves all the support it can get.

The team on duty in the 2006 junior football championship: Eamonn McGlone; Danny Mullen, Charlie Connolly, Luke Murray; Martin McDonald, Ronan McKenna, Michael Cawley; Charlie Cawley, Diarmuid McKenna; Willie O’Leary, Paddy Morris 0-1, Tommy Mulhall; Colm Richardson, David Ballentine 0-6, Enda O’Leary. Subs: Darren Doyle for C Richardson, Charlie Connolly (jnr) for M Cawley, George Bolton for T Mulhall, Maurice McKenna for E O’Leary.

Fergal O’Hanlon
02/02/1936 - 01/01/1957

January 1st 2007 marks the 50th Anniversary of the death of Fergal O’Hanlon who we are proud to have our club named after.
Fergal O’Hanlon was from Park Street, Monaghan Town. He began his Gaelic football career when he played for Park ST in the street leagues, which were held at Belgium Park and at that time, attracted a huge following.
Later on he then represented The Christian Brothers School every year for five years.
In his final school year, which was in 1954, Fergal played on St. MaCartan’s senior team in the McRory Cup College Championship. In 1952 at the age of sixteen he contested the County Minor Final for the Harps versus Carrickmacross, which ended in a draw. Carrickmacross won the replay. He was also a regular player with the Harps senior team at 16 years of age.
Fergal continued in his minor career right up to the end of 1954. In 1954 he was involved with the Harps Intermediate Team, which won the double that year.
In 1955 he was appointed Co. Board Registrar and in 1956 he was Secretary of the Harps Football Club.

In 1956 he was a sub on the Monaghan County Senior team which were honoured in 2006 and represented his town and county with pride.
Fergal was also a great proponent of the game of Handball and played in many championships. His other great love was the Irish language which he used, with his usual modesty whenever possible.
Fergal was killed in Co. Fermanagh just one day and one month short of his twenty first birthday. It is indeed fitting then that the newest club in Monaghan is named after this proud gael. We thank his family for allowing this small tribute to him.