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Pete McGrath is out to build on Fermanagh survival

By Declan Bogue

Published 05/04/2016

Proud: Erne boss Pete McGrath
Proud: Erne boss Pete McGrath

Pete McGrath cut his usual composed self as he spoke about the need - or lack of need - required to get his Fermanagh side motivated for their draw against Tyrone that kept them in Division Two on Sunday.

"When a team is in the final game of the league and survival depends on it, then strictly speaking there shouldn't be any great need for motivating," the two-time All-Ireland winning manager said.

"For Fermanagh to do what they did, in what was a critically important match… this wasn't a normal game, this was an abnormal game given what was at stake.

"The character of the players, the energy of the players and their resilience all very much came to the surface. When players show those qualities, you are very proud."

With five Ulster sides in the league, two claimed promotion in Tyrone and Cavan and one went down, Armagh falling through the trapdoor.

In the end, it came down to a matter of scoring difference, something that hardly surprised the Rostrevor man.

"We always knew that the division was going to be very, very tight," said McGrath.

"We knew the quality of teams, the fact that there were four other Ulster teams in it and I suppose in a small league when you have seven matches, there is always the chance of compression. The last games could mean promotion for some and demotion for others.

"This game was just so critical, given what we are trying to do with this squad of players and what we are trying to do for the future of Fermanagh football.

"To get another year in Division Two next year is fundamentally important in what we are trying to do here."

The ferocity of the fight was written in the look of forward Paul McCusker. He said: "We knew we were going to have to fight tooth and nail to stay in this division.

"We said it before, we were going to leave nothing out there. It was drilled into us and we are just delighted to have got the result to stay up.

"It was full-blown out there, definitely nearly Championship pace. But we expected that and we wanted to bring that to the game.

"We feel that we are well worth staying in Division Two and we knew going down was going to do this team no good. We need to be playing the better teams in Division Two.

"Leon (Carters, strength and conditioning coach) has told us that it is brilliant preparation going into the Championship, to be playing one of the top teams in the country. We were ahead and we let them back into it and towards the end I thought we held onto the ball very well and showed a lot of composure.

"The leadership from the boys out there was outstanding.

"There was nobody afraid to get on the ball in a high-pressure situation. That will hopefully stand to us in bigger games later in the year."

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