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Fermanagh manager Peter McGrath has faith

By Declan Bogue

Fermanagh manager Pete McGrath has said he will not be focusing the majority of his efforts on countering the efforts of his opposite number this weekend, Antrim's Liam Bradley.

In naming his team for the Brewster Park clash, Bradley has thrown a couple of grenades into the mix. Two players in particular – goalkeeper Patrick Flood of St Enda's and Cargin's Paul McCann – have never played a senior game for Antrim, but both are named to start.

It could follow the trends of other managers in this season's Ulster Championship, with no teams actually starting with the side named in the press.

"I think I am not going to be spending too much time second-guessing Liam Bradley," said the former two-time All-Ireland winning manager.

"That's out of our hands really. Eighty per cent of what we have to do is in terms of our own style of play, coming up with gameplans, strategies that our players are happy with and coming to terms with how our team should play in order to realise the strengths of our team."

From the evening he was named as Fermanagh manager McGrath, 60, said he would bring something of the dash that was associated with his Down sides.

The 13 goals they delivered in the league campaign certainly displayed that but what they gained going forward they neglected in defence as they shipped a dozen goals.

McGrath reflects now on the change of philosophy: "The teams that I would have managed in Down, I know it's a different era and football in Down is different in certain ways, but Down football was always adventurous, there was a certain cavalier attitude to it and you went out to express yourself and that sort of thing.

"I still think that has a part in the modern game and I am encouraging that in how Fermanagh play."

He acknowledged the defensive shortcomings, saying: "There were obviously issues that we had to deal with, in our defence, and we are still dealing with them and coming up with systems that would ensure we are not going to leak three goals against Antrim.

"By the same token, you have very talented players in the forward line, these are very, very good footballers with a lot of natural talent, natural forward ability and it's up to us to maximise that.

"We have to have an overall system, integrate principles of play to ensure that the team, given the talent, the abilities we have, the physicality we have in certain areas of the field, can gel and create something."

While he maintains they will be looking to get their own house in order ahead of Sunday, they are not going in blind and know exactly the threat that the visitors pose.

"What Liam does with his team will unravel on the day and we are aware of certain players Antrim have. The McCanns, Niall McKeever, and they are good footballers," comments McGrath.

"I am not sure what his strategies will be. He will try what he wants to try and we will do likewise and during the course of that interaction and that dynamic, it's how you deal on the sideline and on the pitch with what confronts them."

In recent weeks the Ernemen welcomed back Roslea forward Sean Quigley. Despite playing only three games in the league he was still overall top scorer for the entire series with 3-18, 0-13 from the dead ball.

He left the panel in March as part of a dispute that arose between his brother Seamus and management, but McGrath is delighted to welcome him back.

He explains: "From early on in the fall-out and Seamie's departure, we made it very clear to Conor and Sean that we were very keen to chat to them and give them our view on things, with a view to them coming back on the panel.

"Sean never wanted to leave really. It was made known he wanted back, we had a match against Wicklow and he came. I didn't make a fuss, I just shook hands and welcomed him back and that was it. No point in making big speeches.

"We are delighted to have him back and it means we can do certain things now that he is back."

McGrath is also pleased with the return of Mark Murphy from Australia. He had been substitute goalkeeper in 2004, but later developed into a fine midfielder, playing there in the Erne county's run to the 2008 Ulster final.

His last meaningful time spent in a county jersey was a substitute appearance in the 2009 Ulster Championship against Cavan, but he has made an impression since returning over a month ago.

"I made contact with him, he is in the panel and there is no doubt that he is in good shape and can make a positive contribution," he said.

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