Fermanagh may have only one adult club team currently competing in hurling, Lisbellaw St. Patrick’s, but the work being put in at underage level across the county should ensure that number rises in the years ahead.

Lisbellaw currently field teams at senior and all youth grades and with the sport growing in popularity throughout the county there is now seven other clubs fielding underage sides at various grades including Erne Gaels, Belnaleck, Enniskillen Gaels, Knocks Grattan’s, St. Aidan’s, Ederney and Lisnaskea.

And Fermanagh GAA are playing their part with Monday nights now reserved solely for underage hurling activity only which has helped in the rise of children playing as it tries to create a balance for children to play both codes and not choosing one over the other.

All teams at under 13 and under 15 now enter a national Tain Og competition which guarantees clubs six games of hurling at each age grade and if clubs fulfil all fixtures, they are awarded with tickets to the All Ireland Hurling semi finals at Croke Park. The Tain Og Youth Hurling leagues aims is to provide games for clubs crossing county and provincial borders. Another guideline is that teams travel no more than 45 minutes for a game. Meaning many games are played a half way venues.

And there is good progress too at development squad level.

Five years ago Fermanagh was the only county in Ireland with no county minor team. They now have a minor team that competes in the Celtic Challenge, getting to the semi final last year losing to Longford by a couple of points, while their Under 15’s compete in the Hibernia Cup losing to Monaghan in the final on penalties last year. The under 13 development squad host an annual camp sponsored by the Shane Mulholand Foundation with large numbers attending.

GAA National Hurling Development Manager and former Kilkenny senior coach, Martin Fogarty, visits counties to help them create and grow clubs. He has visited Fermanagh many times since his appointment and attended an under 13 Tain Og final between Belnaleck and the Knocks. He was so impressed by the standard of play and the commitment from both clubs that he wrote a report on the possible future of the game in the county.

“It is my sincere belief that Fermanagh are developing a template or blueprint which will be rolled out nationally in a few years time to show ‘what can be done’ with supreme effort and co-operation,” he stated.

“While Fermanagh have just the one adult club at the moment they have no fewer than eight underage units building nicely, most of them now up around the U-14 level. I have witnessed first hand over the past few years this work and dedication first hand and I just hope that all concerned will continue to support this work. Just imagine if in six years time if even four of those units make it to adult level. That would be a 400 per cent increase in a short space of time. If they all make it it will mean that inside ten years that Fermanagh will have at least eight adult hurling teams. That would be phenomenal but it can happen and I for one hope to still be around to witness it. Momentum is a powerful force and it is at work in Fermanagh hurling at the moment, you never know where it can end - as they say ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’.

“In my role as National Hurling Development Manager I was delighted to discover this oasis of hurling in Fermanagh. I hope that other counties take note of what is being and can be done and I truly hope that in a few years’ time that spring will become a gushing stream.”

And Ulster GAA Regional Hurling Development Officer, Emmett Conlon also acknowledged the rise in popularity of hurling and wants to see even more children take it up.

“The rise of hurling over the last couple of years in the county is remarkable. One issue is not a lot of people are aware of this, sometime we under sell what we have. Children love hurling! I would really recommended parents to get their child to their nearest hurling club in the county and experience this great game and with eight clubs in the county now you have no excuse.”

Now he wants to see a long term plan put in place for the county.

“The county board organised a number of Blitzes last year with over 120 children hurling up at Lissan.

“The hunger is their to hurl. I would say that there is a need for a long-term plan to be put in place to help these clubs reach adulthood. Even a five year strategic plan specific to hurling would help so much. Tyrone did this a couple of years ago with a plan to develop Hurling and Camogie within the county and got support from Croke Park and the progress they had made has to be admired,” he said.