McGrath slams 'selfish' stars: Ernesiders told to commit or face axe
It was a bemused Pete McGrath who stood on the lumpy and sodden Brewster Park pitch on Saturday night, the line of questioning not revolving around Fermanagh's fine win over Sligo and his first win in the new job, but about two players who he dropped from the matchday panel for playing soccer a matter of hours earlier.
Seamus Quigley did not make the league opener last week against Cavan due to a hamstring injury.
He had been named on the bench for the visit of Sligo, yet played the full 90 minutes for Lisnaskea Rovers against Enniskillen Town United in the Fermanagh and Westerns soccer league, bagging a brace in their 4-2 defeat.
His Roslea clubmate and another man named on the bench for the county, Niall Cassidy, also scored in Lisbellaw United's 4-1 win over Ballysillan in the Junior Cup.
McGrath revealed that it came as a complete surprise to him as he made his way from his Rostrevor home on Saturday afternoon.
"It came out of the blue. It was childish of them, it was silly of them, selfish of them," the Erne manager commented.
He continued: "The decision was very easy to make, the two players were told because they had played soccer, they would not be part of the panel tonight against Sligo and then further to that, I said that any player that wants to be on the squad can have no involvement with soccer.
"They have to be fully-committed. This is senior inter-county football, you can't be ambivalent, you can't be dabbling in all things, it does interfere, so the choice is clear."
The players accepted the punishment, but McGrath was also pragmatic enough not to banish them from the panel, treating the rather comical episode as a one-off, explaining: "At the end of the day I made my position clear tonight. Anyone who wants to, can play soccer. But, they won't be part of this squad.
"Fermanagh has a limited number of clubs. By the standards of some other counties, a smaller pool to pick from. So we need all our talented players, we need them all."
He added: "I said that was my first job when I came here, we should have all the talented players on the squad. They are on the squad, we want to keep them on the squad, but there are certain standards that have to be adhered to and common sense would tell us that.
"I would have had issues with soccer all down through my career with Down."
Watching on from the stands, Quigley must have been impressed with younger brother Sean. Re-instated at full-forward after serving a suspension against Cavan, he was magnificent in racking up 1-8.
After a nervy opening half, Fermanagh settled to produce a pacy counter-attacking game, with Eoin Donnelly influential in midfield and a balanced forward line of Quigley flanked either side by Tomás Corrigan and Eamon Maguire.
It certainly would have passed for the attractive brand of football that McGrath promised when he took the hot seat.
"You try to do what's right for your players, for the players you have got," he said in response.
"The one thing you don't want to be is predictable. You don't want to be stereotyped and at times tonight, the game we were trying tonight, the players just aren't as fit as they would like to be in order to keep going all the time.
"But we are trying to play very much a game that has variety to it, good decision-making. These are supposed to be intelligent footballers playing at this level. A certain amount has to be decision-making on their part, I can't programme them for everything.
"But given the broad guidelines of what we expect, on any given day when a gameplan comes under fire, they have got to adapt and make decisions. Tonight, they made a lot of good ones."
The win pushes Fermanagh up to joint third place and leaves them in a good position ahead of their next league game, away to Longford on March 2.
They now have three weeks to prepare for the second phase of the league and will approach it with great optimism following this encouraging win.
"All the counties would say the same going into a break," McGrath said.
"It's good to win your last game and get points because things could fester in your own mind, a lack of confidence and a losing mentality.
"To win the game, it's two points and given the situation regarding the break, it's a very timely injection of confidence."