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Rugby club looks to new season

Jamie Johnston

COACH.. Jamie Johnston, the new Enniskillen RFC team forwards coach and captain

An exciting new era begins for Enniskillen Rugby Club this week with the start of pre-season training in the build-up to the new season.

This year in particular features a significant reshuffle for Enniskillen, with Norman Richmond taking over as Manager, Jamie Johnston coming into a dual role as new club captain and forwards coach, and the return of Ashley Finlay as both a player and backs coach.

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Alan Ferguson comes in as 2nd XV captain, with a tough task ahead after suffering relegation, and Richard Willis takes the 3rd XV captaincy from Michael Cadden off the back of a league winning season.

Enniskillen 1st XV struggled last season following the loss of key players in the early stages of the competition, turning a quest for promotion into an admirable effort from Skins just to remain in Qualifying League 2.

This was followed by the departure of club coach Alasdair Mckee and the end of Ricky Connor’s tireless tenure as club captain. With a number of new playing staff and some fresh ideas thrown into the mix it is a promising new chapter in the history of the club.

A playing veteran and assistant to McKee last season, familiarity will not be an issue for Norman Richmond. Whilst remaining conservative about the goals of the season,  he is targeting the top half of the table as a starting point and eyeing promotion as a ‘three year plan’.

Norman seems equally focused on developing more abstract areas of the club.

“A major goal is to just build a great esprit de corps amongst the lads and strengthen the relationship between players throughout the club, on top of that hopefully developing a larger player base to choose from.

“It’s crucial that we develop an honest relationship with the players. I won’t be scared to make big decisions and no player should expect his place to be safe should he not give 100%.”

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In terms of rugby, Richmond appears set on aggressive playing style built around good fundamentals of the game.

“We’re going for an exciting game plan, play hard, take no quarter. We need to be mentally and physically strong, focus on doing the basics right and being clinical.”

The support base for Richmond is just as formidable with Jamie Johnston taking over the captaincy role.

With a history of All Ireland Rugby at Banbridge RFC, numerous seasons playing for Enniskillen 1st XV, and excellent performances for Junior Ulster the powerful back row forward is well equipped to lead the team and bring his substantial experience to the role of forwards coach. He has no concerns about combining the dual roles of captain and coach.

“I don’t foresee that being a problem, because last year Ricky (Connor) was captain and was in the backs and I was the pack leader. Whenever Ally was working last year with the backs it was over to me to work with the forwards so it is kind of a smooth transition for me, because I did a lot of the forwards work last year anyway. In terms of coaching and captain I just view it all as a leadership role. Obviously there is going to be times when I have to wear different hats, but I’m prepared for that and I have clearly defined in my head what the captain’s role is and what the coach’s role is and as much as I can I will keep them separate.”

The return of Ashley Finlay is a welcome sight for Enniskillen who have found themselves struggling for backs in recent times. Having represented Ulster Schools during his time at Portora, Ashley went on to become a key player for Banbridge RFC, then moving to Cooke RFC ,where he achieved Junior Ulster selection in his first season.
“I’m very excited about finally getting a chance to play at home after being up the country for several years.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge of both playing for Enniskillen and hopefully bringing some fresh ideas to the team in terms of coaching. I have no doubt we have the potential to push for promotion in the near future”.

Pre-Season training will take place every Tuesday and Thursday, starting tomorrow, Thursday July 17, on the pitch for 7.00pm. New players are always in demand and all are welcome to attend.

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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 28 Belmore Street, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, BT74 6AA