THE Fermanagh and Western League recently recognised the contribution of a number of club representatives at their annual Hall of Fame awards in the Killyhevlin Hotel.
Mountjoy United’s Alan Nesbitt, Ballinamallard United groundsman, Mervyn Nixon and one of the founding fathers of the Fermanagh and Western Referees’ Association, George Parkinson were all presented with Merit awards while former league secretary Gerry Connolly was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Connolly, who quit as secretary at the end of last year owing largely to ill-health and days after a heated disciplinary meeting, received a standing ovation when receiving his award from league chairman Neil Jardine.
Before presenting Connolly with his accolade the chairman outlined the immense contribution he had made to the local game and said the Enniskillen Town representative had left a lasting legacy that would serve the league for many years to come.
Connolly served as league secretary for a total of 16 years during two different spells from 1987 to 1994 and from 2009 until last year.
In between he was secretary of the Brendan Keogh Youth League or the Fermanagh and Western Youth League as it was previously known, for a decade.
Prior to Connolly’s induction, ‘Nipper’ Nesbitt received the first award of the evening in recognition of his involvement in the local game for the best part of half a century.
As a player Nesbitt was one of the most prolific strikers to grace the league in turning out for Sporting Spartak from Drumquin, Mountjoy United, Killymore Rovers, Irvinestown Wanderers as well as two spells with the now defunct Omagh Town.
Committee member Sam Dennison outlined how after his playing days had been cut short by injury the Mountjoy man took up the whistle and among 400 appearances as the man in the middle refereed the 2001 Irish Junior Cup Final and the 2003 Mulhern Cup decider.
He then moved into management game with his beloved Mountjoy, Cappagh Spurs ladies team and Mountjoy United U18s who he guided to Lowry Corry success. He currently acts as assistant to David Gilfillan at Lisnagirr Road as well as serving on the committee of his club and that of the Tyrone SuperCupNI Association.
Mr Nixon, groundsman of the year two years running for his work at Ballinamallard United Football, was the next to be honoured.
Mervyn has been trusted with looking after the grounds at Ferney Park for the past 31 years and in the 2011/12 and 2012/13 seasons gained national recognition when he was named Overall Groundsman of the Year.
Fellow clubman Gordon Lee said his achievements had not only brought great honour on his club but that of the Fermanagh and Western region.
Last but by no means least to receive his Merit award was Mr Parkinson, who is a Life President of the Fermanagh and Western Referees’ Association, which he helped to form in 1968.
On Friday evening F&WFA chairman Roy Cathcart outlined Mr Parkinson’s huge contribution first as a match official and secondly in the growth of the local refereeing body and the development of its members, many of whom graduated to officiate at the highest level.
A man of great integrity, vision and wisdom, Cathcart said the recipient was highly respected by everyone throughout local game, a fact underlined when he was honoured by his peers at the Fermanagh and Western Referees’ Association 50th anniversary back in November.