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McGrath quits amid rumours of Ernemen unrest

 

By Declan Bogue and John Campbell

Fermanagh are the latest county to be on the lookout for a senior football manager, after Pete McGrath informed county chairman Greg Kelly that he would not be in charge for 2018.

It is believed that a letter sent by a player was delivered to Kelly, outlining reservations over McGrath taking on the role for another year. Players held a meeting last weekend and on Thursday night at least one player's representative met with McGrath, where he was informed that some players were not willing to return to play for him.

Rumblings of discontent had been doing the rounds in the county since they exited the All-Ireland Championship after two defeats to Monaghan and Armagh, both by nine points.

It drew to a disappointing close the 2017 season, with the team losing control of their final league fixture against Derry while seemingly in a commanding position and subsequently suffering relegation to Division Three for next year.

However, many were giving McGrath the benefit of the doubt after no fewer than 20 of the panel that were on duty for the 2015 All-Ireland quarter-final were absent this season through injury, travel and retirement.

McGrath had met with his management team a fortnight ago and after some discussion, it was decided they would continue in their role for a fifth year, having taken charge initially for the 2014 season.

The county board then ratified McGrath and his selectors Raymond Johnston and Simon Bradley, along with team trainers Brian Treacy and Leon Carters.

When contacted by the Belfast Telegraph last night, McGrath said that he would outline his reasons in full for tendering his resignation in due course, but thanked the county board for all their help, adding that they had received all the help they required in his time.

Meanwhile, Derry skipper Padraig McGrogan admits he is "desperately keen" to lead his side to what would be a second provincial minor title in three years at Clones tomorrow.

But having observed the progress his team's opponents Cavan have made this year, he is convinced that they will prove "a very difficult proposition".

Not only is Newbridge clubman McGrogan preparing to inspire his side against a Breffni outfit that has already beaten Monaghan and Down but he is braced for a huge personal battle with the outstanding James Smith, who has been the heartbeat of the Cavan side to date.

Smith's performance in the semi-final win over Down was the best seen at minor level for some time - he took nine 'marks' in the second half alone - and McGrogan needs no reminding of the enormity of the task his side will face.

"Cavan have reached a very high standard at minor level and in each of their two games to date they have shown great resilience," pointed out McGrogan.

"They are a dogged team who never know when to give up and we have to show them the respect that they deserve. We obviously know the threat that players like James Smith pose because winning kick-outs can be the winning or losing of a game.

"While I am desperately keen to lead Derry to success, I know full well that Cavan are going to be a very difficult proposition."

Derry have beaten Tyrone and Antrim to date and McGrogan believes that the fact the Oak Leafs boast a spread of scorers can prove a bonus.

"You definitely need more than one scorer if you want to win anything," stressed McGrogan.

"We have been working on our scoring all year and that includes ensuring that substitutes can get scores too.

"You need to have a decent spread of scorers."

Oisin McWilliams, who scored 2-2 against Antrim, will partner McGrogan at midfield while Richie Mullan, Patrick Quigg and Ben McCarron can prove key figures in the Oak Leaf attack.

Manager Damian McErlain admits he is conscious of the speculation that links his name with the vacant senior job within the county now that frontrunner Paul McIver has declared that he has no interest in the position.

But the only assignment on McErlain's radar is tomorrow's final against a Cavan side which he rates as "extremely good" and deems capable of forming a huge obstacle to Derry's hopes of winning a second Ulster crown under his watch.

  • Derry v Cavan, Ulster MFC Final: Clones, Sunday, 12noon

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