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Pete McGrath comeback on hold as weather hits McKenna Cup clash

By Declan Bogue

The new Fermanagh manager Peter McGrath will have to wait another few days before his return to senior inter-county action.

Referee Paudie Hughes determined the Brewster Park pitch unplayable, 20 minutes before their McKenna Cup opener was due to throw-in against St Mary's, a decision that with reluctant approval from McGrath.

"Paddy Tally and myself were disappointed," he commented. "Particularly for me as a new manager and the players who have worked hard this past six weeks. We had a very good team meeting prior to the call-off at a hotel.

"Players were very keen, looking forward to the game. But you have to be thinking of player safety and player welfare. You could have played here today and you could have got away with it but if one player had been seriously injured, then you would have been blaming yourself."

The game is due to be restaged on Wednesday night, and Hughes is expected to fulfil the clash. A mere 26 spectators had paid through the gates by the time he reached his decision.

"The referee is the man who takes the ultimate decision because the buck stops with him," continued McGrath.

"The responsibility resides with him. In the interest of player welfare and safety he was very unhappy with the pitch and called it off."

Given the surface water on the pitch, the new black card ruling would have been troublesome for the players and referee Hughes, explained McGrath.

"We are able to see how all the black cards went in all the other matches now. It would have been very hard for the referee to interpret intent an accident here today. It's difficult at the best of times but in conditions like these it would have been hard."

The last time McGrath took charge of a senior inter-county fixture was Down's first-round Championship qualifier loss to Longford in 2002, and he admitted to getting a buzz as he left Rostrevor yesterday morning to go to the game.

"It was strange alright, leaving the house coming out of Down to manage another county, but I was looking forward to it.

"I have enjoyed the six, seven weeks I have been here with the players. They have been very co-operative and enthusiastic. They are working hard and probably only when the match started would it have come home to me that I am managing inter-county senior football again."

He continued: "It's something I am looking forward to it enormously. The reception from the public and players and Fermanagh people has been very encouraging and very warm and hopefully I won't disappoint them in months ahead."

* IT IS understood that Mark Harte, son of Tyrone manager Mickey and an All-Ireland winner, has taken the reins at Roslea Shamrocks for the coming season. Harte was in charge of Tullylish in Down last season, and brings an impressive pedigree to the Fermanagh kingpins.

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