The Fermanagh and Western season was officially brought to an end on Monday night when the Management Committee of the Fermanagh and Western Football Association decided to cancel this year’s Mulhern and Reihill Cup competitions following a Zoom online meeting.

The league season had already been declared null and void on November 30, with most teams having only played a maximum of four games, although it was hoped at that stage that the two cup competitions – along with the Irish Junior Cup – would go ahead, while there was also plans for a subsidiary competition to provide clubs with football.

However, with lockdown restrictions having been extended until March, the Fermanagh and Western Football League shelved any plans for the subsidiary competition last Tuesday, and this was followed on Wednesday by the news that the IFA had cancelled the Junior Cup for this season due to the ongoing pandemic.

And Fermanagh and Western Association Secretary Neil Jardine says that it did not take much debate for the decision to be made to call off both the Mulhern and Reihill Cups at Monday night’s meeting.

‘A straightforward decision’

“It was a very straightforward decision,” he said. “There had been other possibilities talked about, but when we reviewed the situation we just realised there was no point in hanging on and hanging on to make a decision.

“We had been strong in making a decision with the league at the end of November, and that proved to be the correct decision, so we just didn’t see any reason not to take the decision at this stage.

‘Lots of factors’

“There are lots of contributing factors, albeit the main one is the health and safety of everyone involved in the game, be that players, officials, managers or whoever, and that was the paramount reason,” he explained.

And he states that there was simply too many unknowns for them to go ahead with the cups.

“Also we don’t know when we will be able to play again, we don’t know about the availability of facilities, and if we were to do it there was the distinct possibility that there would be no spectators, and to play a Mulhern Cup final without spectators is just not on – it’s the biggest occasion for junior football in the area, and without a crowd it would be meaningless for the teams involved.

“All those things were taken into consideration, and nobody had any alternative plans. Some had felt it would be nice to leave it there to have something to look forward to, but they quickly realised that wasn’t going to be practical, so it was a fairly straightforward and unanimous decision that we just call it quits at this stage.”

Jardine also felt that it was important to provide clarity for clubs instead of leaving uncertainty about whether competitions would be played or not.

“We gave clarity with the league fixtures at that stage and we wanted to do the same again, and not wait for a month and decide then. At what stage then do you call it?

“Also, it is fairly apparent that there isn’t a huge appetite among some clubs to return for a one-off cup competition where they may only play one match, and we don’t want to devalue the competition by only having a limited entry.

“I have no doubt that the decision made was the correct one all round,” he added.

The focus now for the Fermanagh and Western will be the Annual General Meeting which will take place at the start of June. Then attention will switch to the next season, with the hope that they will be able to get a clean run of things.

“We don’t know at this stage what is going to be in place, in regards to restrictions come August, but obviously we all hope that they are long gone at that stage and we are back to having changing facilities, and back to hospitality opening, which are all part of our game at this level,” he said.

“We have our AGM at the start of June and we won’t delay in getting any required rule changes put through, in terms of an earlier start date.

“There definitely seems to be an appetite and a willingness amongst the clubs to start on the earlier date, so we’ll do those administrative things that need to be done.

“Hopefully, next season we will be able to get an uninterrupted run at it,” he added.