Football world mournes the sad loss of Ewan Fenton

Last updated : 04 April 2006 By Gerry Ormonde
It was with deep regret that the football community learned of the death on Monday (April 3) of Ewan Fenton, former manager of Limerick and Linfield.

Mr. Fenton, a native of Scotland, came as player/manager to Limerick at the start of the 1960/'61 season and he continued to live there until his death, which occurred after a short illness.

He spent three years as manager of Linfield in Belfast from 1967 but during those years he continued to maintain his home and a business in Limerick. He helped Linfield win seven titles and it was with reluctance the Belfast club released him to return to Limerick.

Bryan Hamilton was one of the players who blossomed under his astute guidance at Windsor Park and a minute's silence in honour of his memory was observed there before last night's Setanta Sports Cup tie against Glentoran.

Ewan Fenton was 75 years when he died and he is survived by his wife Vera, their son Ewan and their grand-children.

He first gained prominence as a clever and constructive wing-half with Blackpool when they won the FA Cup final by beating Bolton Wanderers 4-3 at Wembley in 1953. That final will always be recalled as the “Stanley Matthews final”.

It was Matthews' only major club honour in the game and he produced a devastating performance to help Blackpool win the game with a late flurry of goals. Stanley Mortensen scored three goals for Blackpool and it was Ewan Fenton who provided Matthews with the pass from which the great winger set up Bill Perry for the fourth goal.

Limerick won the League of Ireland Championship in 1959/'60 season under a local manager, Sonny Price, who had played for Glentoran, Limerick and Waterford.

The Limerick team was composed of just a few local players in combination with Doney Wallace and Gerry O'Brien from Cork, Georgie Lynam, Leo O'Reilly, Pat Skelly from Dublin.

The Limerick board decided they wanted to develop an all-local team and so they brought in Ewan Fenton, then aged 29, from Wrexham to implement their plan.

He was an immediate hit with staff, players and fans and his quiet and undemonstrative personality ensured he became very popular. He also helped build on the success that Sonny Price had gained with the team and introduced a great number of talented local players to League of Ireland football.

Limerick lost FAI Cup finals in 1965 and again in 1966 to Shamrock Rovers before they finally brought the trophy home in triumph to Shannonside in 1971 when they beat Drogheda 3-0 in a replay.

That team contained the great Andy McEvoy and others like Richie Hall, Kevin Fitzpatrick, Al Finucane, Sean Byrnes, Tony Meaney, Joe O'Mahony, Hughie Hamilton, Paddy Shortt. Others who served Limerick well in the Fenton years included Tommy Hamilton, Eddie Mulvey, Shay Coad and many others.

He advanced the career of such outstanding Limerick players as Kevin Fitzpatrick, Dessie McNamara, Gerry McCarthy, Mick Doyle, Dick O'Connor, Al Finucane, Joe O'Mahony, Johnny Walsh, Pat Nolan, Ger Duggan, Tony Meaney to name but a few.

Many of these players were still playing at the top of their form when, under Eoin Hand, Limerick won the League of Ireland Championship in 1980.

In between times Linfield invited Mr. Fenton to Belfast to give them a tactical talk on how to prepare for a match in Europe against CSKA Sofia, who had knocked Limerick out of the Cup Winners Cup a year earlier. Linfield invited him to stay as manager and made him an offer he could not refuse.

By this stage he was obviously well established in Limerick where he ran a thriving Learner Driver business and he maintained his home and his ties with Shannonside. He returned after a few years with Linfield and continue to act as manager for Limerick until he finally retired from football in 1977.

Mr. Fenton led an Irish amateur international team in a tournament in Whitley Bay in the North East of England in 1963 and he also was manager of a League of Ireland selection on a couple of occasions.

His name will always be recalled with warmth and affection by those who knew him and especially by the several generations of footballers who followed his teaching methods, listened to his instructive tactical theories and advanced their careers under his expert guidance.

Irish football owes him a lot and it is with a deep sense of sadness that we note his passing. We hope this inadequate tribute to the memory of a great man will help relay our sincere regrets to his grieving widow and family. May he rest in peace.

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