Ernesiders are set to contest Ryan McCluskey’s red card
Fermanagh manager Pete McGrath has confirmed that his county board will be appealing Ryan McCluskey's red card for a "gesture of frustration" during the 1-20 to 0-13 Ulster semi-final defeat to Monaghan, and also had strong words for The Sunday Game highlights show panellist Kevin McStay.
In analysing the contact between McCluskey and Monaghan's Owen Duffy, All-Ireland club-winning manager McStay said: "It is a deserved red card. Certainly, McCluskey comes through and drives. That's a dangerous tackle because if that connects with your ribcage, you won't be sleeping tonight. The referee is absolutely correct."
McGrath has declared himself unhappy with that assessment, stating: "For Kevin McStay to suggest that it could have broken somebody's ribs is absolutely and utterly unfair and I think it's very irresponsible of him to be honest.
"It was just a gesture of frustration on McCluskey's part. Certainly, it was free kick and I would have had no problem with a yellow card because it was a bit undisciplined and it was out of frustration."
McGrath drew the comparison of an earlier challenge which earned Monaghan's Darren Hughes a yellow card in the 46th minute, which had a much lesser level of contact with McCluskey, explaining: "Poking your foot in is a yellow card, no problem. But to red card a man, you don't want to drag other people in, but the way that Darren Hughes absolutely clobbered Ruairi Corrigan…
"Ruairi was defenceless at the time, couldn't protect himself going down on the ball and this guy comes in and empties him. That was certainly a much more dangerous and malicious thing by far than what Ryan McCluskey did, which was impetuous.
"It was nothing more than a poke, it was certainly not a kick, no way was it a kick. We will certainly appeal it, do whatever has to be done and we will go wherever we have to go. We will appeal it and make a strong case for it."
Just five weeks after their clash in the Ulster Championship, which Fermanagh won by eight points, McGrath's Ernemen have been paired with the Saffrons again for a round 2A qualifiers fixture on Saturday, July 4.
Given that the two sides have already met in the Ulster Championship, the current ruling means they have to play at Brewster Park, even though Antrim were drawn from the hat first.
"We beat them three weeks ago in the Ulster series in Brewster Park and we are playing them again in 12 days' time in Brewster Park in the Championship," began McGrath (pictured).
"It is critical for this team's development that we get as much football as we can during the summer. It is absolutely critical.
"Because it's Antrim, we have already played them and there is a bit of déjà vu, we will deal with that. It's just so important for us that we are still playing football into the middle of the summer. Very important."
Pointing to the unlikely Saffrons success over the weekend, he continued: "Antrim, by beating Laois, will take great inspiration from that. It was a very, very good result. They are coming into the game off the back of a win, we are coming into the game off the back of a loss, but the way we played gives us enormous confidence.
"It's just important that we sustain that intensity, that appetite and desire that we showed.
"If we are able to sustain that over the next 12 days then the winning or the losing of the Antrim game is in our hands. That's the way I see it."
He feels that the two weeks will also see an improvement in the fitness of key players Ruairi Corrigan and Eoin Donnelly.
"When I look back over the league campaign, Ruairi Corrigan was a massive player for us over the league," said McGrath.
"He played very well against Antrim and when he came on against Monaghan, given how little training he had done, he wasn't able to make the impression on the game that he normally would.
"In 12 days' time, we would like to see Ruairi back to where he was in the league.
"And obviously Eoin Donnelly's performance against Monaghan was massive and it showed how much we missed him in the league final and against Antrim the first day. We have got to positive about those people."
McGrath is also holding out hope that the Fermanagh county board will not set any fixtures to be played next weekend, or at least some compromise could be made by resting the county players.
He revealed: "I know that in Down, there were club league matches a week ago on Friday night and the county players didn't play because they are playing next Saturday.
"They got their 13-day rule and I would like to think our players will be getting the same opportunity in Fermanagh."