McLaughlins hope to bring home the bacon for Erne Gaels on Sunday

McLaughlins hope to bring home the bacon for Erne Gaels on Sunday

There was a time when current Erne Gaels boss Maurice McLaughlin tagged along with big brother, Liam MacLaughlin, when the latter played for the Belleek men and the Fermanagh county senior team in 1979 and 1980.

But there is a bit of role reversal as these days, Dublin based Liam will be assisting his 50 year-old old brother who is seven years younger, as they take on Derrygonnelly Harps in the county final in Brewster Park, Enniskillen on Sunday at 4.15.

Liam has never hidden the fact that he is a Donegal native, born in the Rosses in Dungloe, and lived in Cloghore for many years, but is equally adamant that when it comes to Gaelic football or indeed hurling he will always be an “Erne Gaels and Fermanagh man”.

And he captained the Fermanagh senior footballers to a first ever National Football League quarter-final when they were beaten by Galway in 1980 from goals, as well as hurling with the county for 17 years on and off.

But he is also one of the few Erne players who were never beaten by Donegal as Fermanagh beat Tir Chonaill in 1979 in the NFL in Fintra, when Martin Griffin was full-forward and in Lisnaskea the following year when his former Rockfield classmate, Seamus Flynn, was wing-forward for Donegal.

“It is something you don’t really think about much but we had a pretty useful side back then and we won the National Football League Division Two North in 1980.

Liam travelled to play with Erne Gaels from Dublin where he moved in 1978 until 1982 and won two county championships and a hurling championship in 1979 and 1981.

He also recalls playing on a Fermanagh U-21 team that beat a Donegal side that had Packie Bonner playing his last match with the county before going to Celtic in 1979.

In those years he trained in Dublin under Ballyshannon man Kieran McCready, along with Finian Ward, Seamus Bonner, Fionn McDonnell and Thomas Quinn.

Liam also won a Donegal U-14 county championship with Aodh Ruadh in 1972 and later roomed with Red Jim Gallagher who was voted the best full-back in Dublin back in the 1980s, ex Aodh Ruadh star Chris McGuinness and often shot the breeze with Aodh Ruadh’s Eamon Sheerin, who was a garda in Kildare Street in the 1980s.

He soldiered in Dublin with Round Towers for over 30 years but the lure of home was very strong when Maurice asked him to help him out this year.

“Erne Gaels are very much part of me so it was no big decision to go back this year as the pull of home never leaves you.

“I had been chatting with Maurice a lot on the ‘phone and we do have a good young team who are capable of playing exciting football and they have shown that this year.

“There is a good squad of footballers in Belleek and we have been on a fantastic journey so far this year.

“And for the past number of months I have been bringing Ryan Lyons, Damian Lyons and Paul O’Shea so there has been a great buzz really.

“I played with Erne Gaels at football and hurling from 1974-1982-83 and also served as assistant secretary and for a few years the only weekends I would spend in Dublin would be the All-Ireland final weekends and we ran the great Austin Stacks to three points in the seven-a-side in 1980 and were also involved in 1982.

“So for me, these days are very precious and have a certain symmetry as I feel I am going back to my roots,” said the recently retired Coillte Manager.

And home would be even better if the New York Gold Cup was to come back to the Belleek/Cloghore area where we have never had any frontiers.