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Saffrons could turn to boss McGrath after his Erne exit

 

By Declan Bogue

Former Fermanagh boss Pete McGrath could be in line to make a shock return to the inter-county dugout, with a review into the Antrim football management team now ongoing.

It's understood that while current managers Frank Fitzsimons and Gearoid Adams await the findings of a sub-committee, some in the Saffron County are keen for an approach to be made to the Rostrevor man.

McGrath's appetite for the game may have diminished after the ugly affairs of the last week, when he stepped down after some Erne players made it known they would refuse to play for him in 2018, but there are some within Antrim keen on the Down man taking over.

Fitzsimons, who has been in charge since 2015, and Adams, who linked up as joint manager in 2016, have already indicated their willingness to continue into the 2018 campaign.

They only suffered relegation from Division Three in the final league game through score difference, but had a disappointing Championship, losing heavily to Donegal and Sligo.

This review is the result of Antrim county board chairman Collie Donnelly making the startling admission that: "What has happened in the past is that county board officials have been left with the job of appointing managers, and I don't actually think that is a good thing."

A football review committee was established, headed up by Ulster Council representative and former county player Alec McQuillan and including former Saffron players Paul McErlain and Ciaran Hamill.

After conducting their review - and with the county secretary Frankie Quinn having circulated nomination forms to clubs last week - they will report their recommendations and nominations by August 14.

The idea of appointing sub-committees to direct operations of management is a novel one, but the thinking behind it is simple, according to St John's clubman Donnelly.

"With respect, you might be a great administrator but you mightn't be the best person in the world to do that," he stated.

"On the likes of the football side you have Alec McQuillan, Paul McErlain and Ciaran Hamill, who are three well respected people and have a good knowledge of football. We knew that it would be better for those people to make that selection."

The critical mistake in the Fermanagh situation was the joint failure of the county board and McGrath's management to deal with player unrest prior to the announcement that he had been ratified as manager for the 2018 season.

Antrim's approach is an interesting development and could be adopted by other counties depending on its success.

"We are trying to get the best people for the job, and that's no slight on the current people in the role and they may well prove to be the best people we have," continued Donnelly.

"This recommendation was decided upon last year. I think in the past someone was always just presented to the clubs.

"People should maybe have an input, maybe there is a good fella out there or a good couple of fellas, and this is about opening the door to see who has a real interest in the role."

The prospect of new names appearing and contesting Fitzsimons and Adams' role is not something the board are shying away from, with Donnelly granting a free role to clubs and the sub-committee.

He explained: "I think it is a blank sheet of paper. We have been very open with the current management team and have told them that we are having a review into who is best to take things forward.

"And the review panel can come back and say, 'Look, we believe these are the two best men for the job'.

"But we are also aware that there may be other people interested in the role. It just wasn't to be signed off and here we go again."

Donnelly maintains that there is nothing that Fitzsimons and Adams are not being kept informed of while the review process is conducted.

Belfast Telegraph

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