'Catholic manager Fenlon'

‘Catholic manager Fenlon’

It did not take long for the rumour mill to spark into life following the news that David Jeffrey would step down as manager of Linfield at the end of the current season.

One potential candidate, according to reports, is former Blues striker Glenn Ferguson, who now manages Ballymena United. The recently retired Northern Ireland international, David Healy, has also been mentioned as a possible successor. Pat Fenlon, who is now unemployed following a spell at Scottish Premiership outfit, Hibernian, is another.

However, for some reason, only one of the aforementioned individuals has been defined according to his supposed religious views.

The Belfast Telegraph website carries a story with the headline: ‘Catholic manager Fenlon tipped to take over at Linfield’.

Such branding immediately focuses the audience’s attention on Fenlon’s apparent religious outlook rather than his impressive profile as a football manager. It is frankly distasteful.

An individual’s religion, or lack thereof, does not normally enter the narrative when discussing football matters because of the simple reason that it is not germane.

By way of comparison, briefly consider the resignation of Sir Alex Ferguson as manager of Manchester United. Mainstream media outlets did not categorise Jose Mourinho or David Moyes based on what celestial beings they directed their prayers toward. That is because their defining features are not religious.

Indeed, nor are Fenlon’s.

The Dubliner enjoyed a fruitful playing career with some of Ireland’s biggest clubs. He has gone on to enjoy considerable success as a manager. These are achievements that are relevant to the discussion.

Ultimately, the Belfast Telegraph headline is reckless, but it is, nevertheless, an illustration of how the fixation on tribal identity continues to infect society in the north of Ireland at all levels.

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