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Having a ball

It was the stuff of dreams when Harry McConkey led a team out at the National Stadium in May to compete in the 2019 Irish Cup Final. “The sound of the roar and the sight of seeing so many fans from my native Fermanagh will stay with me for ever” said Harry.

However, he is the first to acknowledge that it took him some 50 years to become an overnight success! He really did build his first team in 1969, Magheraveely Utd, as a 10 year old boy living on the Fermanagh Monaghan border. He persuaded Mrs McAvinney his neighbour, who was a seamstress, to create numbers for his jerseys and he convinced a young Barry McGuigan from Clones to turn out for his team when he was short of players. Since that period there have been a lot of twists and turns for McConkey, the teacher, the player, the coach and the manager over those 50 years.

The press coverage both local and national around the Irish Cup Final forced Harry to reflect on the memories he held and the wonderful friendships he developed through teaching and sport. Now he would like to recreate that lovely feeling of Fermanagh togetherness where people from across the community come together to have a ball. This time there will be no losers only winners, namely the three charities that Harry has chosen to benefit from the funds raised from his gala ball. He has formed a small committee of people made up from the three charities Willowbridge School, Fermanagh Stroke Support Unit and Ballinamallard Utd F.C. to assist him with the organisation of the event.

The event will be called “Having a Ball” and will be held on Saturday 28th March 2020 in the Manor House Hotel.

Our aim is to fill the ballroom with folk from all walks of life in our community just like the Cup Final. The committee will hope to attract local businesses to the evening and Harry intends to have the room littered with his friends from the world of soccer and other sporting groups. The compere for the evening will be the affable Jackie Fullerton former UTV sports presenter and commentator. Tom Mohan who lived only a few miles from Harry in Rosslea and is presently FAI U 19 manager will be at Harry’s top table as indeed will Jim Cleary the modest Fermanagh legend who played for Northern Ireland and excelled in both GAA and soccer.

A very special guest on the evening will be James Martin, the award–winning Down Syndrome actor who interviewed Harry several times before games throughout the season, including the Irish Cup Final. He will be accompanied by his dad, Ivan Martin, the former morning show presenter at Downtown Radio and now freelance sports journalist.

Harry said: “We want people to get all dolled up and simply come and “have a ball”. There will be good food, good wine, good music and good stories to be told and heard… and all in good company. The committee and Harry will be busy in the coming months and other special guests attending the event will be confirmed in the New Year.

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