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Job done for McGrath

Down 0-10 Fermanagh 1-16

By Declan Bogue

Fermanagh boss Pete McGrath took no pleasure from beating his native county Down on Saturday night by a comprehensive margin of nine points.

The Rostrevor man, who led the Mournemen to two All-Ireland titles, failed to get an interview with the county board when he expressed an interest in a second spell managing his county.

He then took up an invitation to go for the Fermanagh job and has transformed their fortunes to the extent that a nine-point win in Newry is seen as nothing more or less than a solid shift of work.

Even if Down wanted him now, they would have to prise him from the cold, dead hands of the Erne support.

McGrath said afterwards that it was a slightly odd evening standing on the sideline.

"When this fixture appeared in the league programme a number of months ago, it was on my mind. I am glad to get it over with to be honest," he admitted.

"I am glad to get the win, glad to get the team's performance, but as a fixture I am just glad to get it behind me. It was a bit strange. Beating a Down team, for me it was a bit odd. But that's life.

"I am the Fermanagh manager and for me my only concern was for the team to perform to their capability, which they did in the second half, and to win, which they did. So I am very happy right now."

The visitors began brightly and opened up a 0-4 to 0-1 lead. Down then rallied and spurned three gilt-edged goal chances thanks to a combination of great defensive play from Declan McCusker and goalkeeper Thomas Treacy, while there was a hint of a shove on Alan Davidson as he skipped through the defence and skimmed the post with a shot.

The Ernemen were able to steady themselves, going in a point in front at half-time, before stringing together the first five points of the second half with Aidan Breen to the fore with two impressive points from play.

Down fought back but a goal from Fermanagh debutant Eoin McManus, however, sunk their mini-revival.

Down manager Eamonn Burns, still chasing his first win in the league or Championship a full 16 months after he assumed the role as county boss, stated afterwards: "We approached that game thinking we had a good opportunity of winning it. There was a lot of disappointment at the end with the margin of the win.

"A win might do a lot for our confidence. Having said that, there were six debutants. Most of them played quite well and they just ran out of steam because they tackled hard. We are happy with how they played, but six might be a lot to ask."

On the lack of anything approaching a fightback after Fermanagh notched their goal, he added: "There was six points in it at that stage and we were struggling with our kickouts and when you are not retaining possession you are under pressure."

Throughout the pitch, the deficit in quality was something Down could not make up for. In midfield, Eoin Donnelly was the dominant figure. Fermanagh went with an unusual three-man full-forward line and while Sean Quigley was brilliantly policed by Gerard McGovern, and debutant Eddie Courtney erratic with his shooting, Tomas Corrigan was a handful throughout.

He was fouled for a few of his seven converted frees, while he added a special point from play at the end shaped by graft.

McGrath was nothing but understanding of Burns' plight. He offered: "Let's be honest, we all know Down as a county are going through a hard time.

"Eamonn has brought in a number of new players, and had a number of debutants there in this game.

"I said to the players last night and also during the week that come Saturday night, we are the experienced team. We are the team that will be battle-hardened and the team that will bring that to bear.

"When the game ebbs and flows, we have to remain constant and we have to play our way out of tight corners if needed, and thankfully they listened and we did that.

"As the game went on we started to get a grip on it and the scores then started to flow. Everything becomes a lot easier then."

Fermanagh now host Galway in Brewster Park this Sunday, while the Mournemen have a fixture away to Clare that threatens to do a lot of damage to their season.

DOWN: M Cunningham; R McAleenan, G McGovern, D O'Hagan; D McKeever, C McGovern 0-1, B McArdle; A Carr 0-1, J Flynn; J Murphy 0-1, C Magee, S Millar 0-1; A Davidson 0-5, 2f, 1x'45', P Havern, B O'Hagan

Subs: C Mooney for McArdle (h-time), K McKernan 0-1, for McKeever (43), R Johnston for Millar (45), P Turley for Flynn, C Maginn for Murphy (63), D O'Hanlon for McKernan (Blood sub, 64)

Yellow cards: Murphy (60), B O'Hagan (74)

Black cards: 0

Red cards: 0

FERMANAGH: T Treacy; M Jones, C Cullen, C McManus; D McCusker, R McCluskey, A Breen 0-2; E Donnelly, L Cullen; B Mulrone 0-1, E McManus 1-0, P McCusker 0-1; E Courtney 0-1, S Quigley 0-1, T Corrigan 0-8, 7f

Subs: C Beacom 0-1 for Courtney (57), J McMahon for McCluskey, D Keenan for E McManus (64), P Reihill for P McCusker (72), R Lyons 0-1, for Quigley (74), T McCaffrey for Corrigan (76)

Yellow cards: 0

Black cards: 0 Red cards: 0

Referee: Fergal Kelly (Longford)

Attendance: 4,000

Belfast Telegraph

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