NEW Enniskillen Town joint manager James McKenna acknowledges that his players don’t have to look too far to see what can be achieved with the right attitude and commitment.
With cross-town rivals Rangers due to lock horns with Willowbank in a fourth successive Irish Junior Cup Final appearance last night (Tues), McKenna is desperate to see the ‘light Blues’ emerge from their shadows.
Having returned to his home club two years ago following a decade long stint at Ballinamallard, James has taken up a new role alongside incumbent boss Rory Judge on the sidelines.
While the appointment doesn’t mean that the 36-year old has called time on his distinguished playing career, the ambitious McKenna stated that it had been a move he had contemplated for a while.
“ To be honest I fancied giving it a go. I know my playing career isn’t going to last forever. I wanted to stay involved in football somewhere. For a couple of years I had thought of getting into coaching. I had a wee go at it some time go in the Milk Cup (Fermanagh). It was always something in the back of my mind that I would try my hand at.”
Dogged by injuries in the later part of his spell at Ferney Park, McKenna had considered calling it quits some time back, and a chat with his now managerial partner rekindled his interest in the coaching aspect of the sport.
“ I remember chatting to Rory a couple of years ago when he talked me out of retirement when I finished with Ballinamallard. He said at that time that he wanted me to eventually succeed him. I thought it was something I would look at in the future so it was always in the background.
“ I am at that stage in life where I will have to make the jump and speaking to Rory under no circumstances did he want me to make that move to someone else.”
Given the arduous nature of a Junior football season, James appreciates that his calming presence on the pitch may be required to augment his words of wisdom off it.
“ I am joint manager with Rory and the way I said it to him ideally I would like to coach the players and take a back seat. But it’s a long season, with injuries and suspensions, and if I need to play then I will. I am not hanging up the boots completely.
“ Last season was really the first proper season that I was there. Up to the break up in March I had played the whole season. So I am there if needs be to play a role on the pitch as well, though I want to get more involved on the sideline.”
With county-town neighbours Rangers having stockpiled trophy after trophy in recent seasons, McKenna believes that his squad should not be lacking in terms of motivation.
“ The aim has to be to get the club back to where it was ten or eleven years ago. We don’t have to look too far to see where the benchmark is. Rangers have raised the bar and you have to give massive credit to Mickey Kerr. Their consistency over the past four years has been brilliant.
“So we all know where they are at and we see where we are currently at. It will be small steps but we have to look to bridge that gap.
“ I am confident we will have the players on the pitch to do it but we have to teach them the right way to get the most out of them. Tummery and definitely Rangers are where we want to get to.”
Town have already signalled their intentions by snapping up both Shane McCabe and Kane Connor but despite bolstering their playing ranks, James warns that the current Covid scenario makes for an uncertain pre-season.
“ It’s very difficult to put a schedule together because you are obviously waiting a bit of guidance from the Authorities as to where we are going.
“ We don’t want to start into a tough pre-season schedule for a season that could late just ten or twelve weeks depending on other things.
“ We were due our first get-together at the weekend, just to talk to the players, getting them acquainted with each other again. Some of them won’t have met up for four months.
“ If they are mad keen and want to go we will start, but if they want to wait and see, we will take that on board too. Whenever the IFA or Fermanagh Western give us guidelines we will be ready to go.”
And as Town celebrate their Golden Jubilee in 2020, success on the field would provide a fitting reward.
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