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Pete McGrath prepares for first challenge as Fermanagh boss

By john campbell

New Fermanagh manager Peter McGrath is facing up to what could be the first of many important decisions as he prepares his squad for the forthcoming Power NI Dr McKenna Cup competition.

With James Sherry having joined Martin McGrath in pulling down the curtain on his inter-county career, the former Down All Ireland winning boss is charged with finding a new midfield partnership.

And he is likely to give the nod to Eoin Donnelly and Ryan Jones to comprise his engine-room as he seeks to revive Fermanagh's fortunes.

McGrath called time on his top-flight career earlier in the year while Sherry has informed the Fermanagh management that he will not be able to commit to the cause for 2014.

The Roslea clubman, a former Fermanagh captain under the then manager Malachy O'Rourke, has spent the best part of a decade commuting between his Dublin base and his native county for training and matches.

Over the course of the past 18 months, he has suffered five different injuries but still managed to remain at the helm of the Roslea side which won this year's Fermanagh championship.

Coming on the heels of Martin McGrath's exit, Sherry's departure means that Fermanagh will be stripped of a generous ration of experience but Donnelly and Jones will bring youthful exuberance, physical presence and no little skill to the table.

Donnelly captained Fermanagh earlier this year when Ryan McCluskey was injured and has made a considerable impression since his initial introduction to the side.

The rangy Jones has played at both half-forward and midfield but is still seeking to attain a stronger level of consistency at inter-county level. He may get the chance to do this under McGrath who is expected to show faith in other young guns as he amends a team that failed to deliver this year.

Meanwhile, Michael Murphy is set to lead Donegal for the fourth year – and he is still only 24-years-old.

Jim McGuinness' side have embarked on a rigid conditioning programme in preparation for the new season with the manager adopting a hands-on approach as he seeks to avoid the pitfalls which bedevilled his team's start to 2013.

Marty Boyle and Adrian Hanlon are understood to have left the squad but having already summoned a number of fresh faces, McGuinness expects that some of these players could gain in maturity during the McKenna Cup and Allianz League in which Donegal will now play in Division Two.

Donegal had commenced this year with hopes of clinching a third Ulster title and retaining their All Ireland crown but instead they suffered relegation in the league, were overcome by Monaghan in the provincial final and were then humbled by a rampant Mayo in the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

Skipper Murphy is particularly anxious that the team should make a positive start to the new term.

"We have taken stock of where we are at and we aim to give a much better account of ourselves", states Murphy, whose own protracted competitive season only finished on Sunday last when his club Glenswilly were beaten by Ballinderry in the Ulster club final.

Belfast Telegraph

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