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Fermanagh Peter McGrath said 'no' to Dublin's offer of manager

By John Campbell

Fermanagh manager Peter McGrath will be in the green corner at Croke Park on Sunday - but he could just as easily have been fulfilling a role in the blue corner.

McGrath, focusing on what is arguably the biggest match in Fermanagh's history, against Dublin, reveals that he turned down the possibility managing the Dubs in 2004.

The approach to the 1991 and 1994 Down All-Ireland winning boss was made by Dublin secretary John Costello when his county were at a low ebb but, because he was still teaching at St Colman's College, Newry and was reluctant to commit himself, McGrath turned down the invitation.

"It was a preliminary, sounding-out call if you like from John," recalls McGrath.

"I was International Rules manager at the time and had another year to go. I was still teaching and turned down the invitation. I have never regretted it."

But he confirms he has always harboured an admiration for the Dubs conceding that "they are on a different plane now than they were then" while emphasising that he will be doing his utmost to plot their downfall in Sunday's All-Ireland quarter-final at Croke Park.

"Dublin is the biggest county team in the country because of the glamour and colour they bring to matches," says McGrath.

"But we will be going to Croke Park on Sunday fully intent on beating them. To be taking part in matches like this is what drives players on and they want this and indeed more of it, Hopefully they will get it."

However, McGrath admits that what he sees as the lack of consistency in the application of the black card rule is a concern going into the game.

Failure to apply the sanction has been a recurring theme in the provincial championships and All-Ireland qualifiers to date while at the same time controversy has been triggered on certain occasions on which the sanction has been invoked.

Already Derry manager Brian McIver has stepped down from his post citing "scandalous" decisions, one of which he believes saw defender Brendan Rogers banished at a crucial stage in his team's game against Galway.

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney is another who has been less than impressed with some of the refereeing in the championship and now McGrath articulates the worries of those sides still in the hunt for 'Sam' as one of the most important week-ends in the annual fixtures calendar looms.

McGrath's is conscious that even a borderline decision could have an impact on his team's prospects of success.

"I think defensively against Dublin a team has got to be both focused and smart," asserts McGrath.

"Players have to read things very quickly and no matter how much planning we put into things there will be times when they will have to think cleverly for themselves. They must not allow themselves to be sucked into situations which could be damaging from our perspective."

McGrath feels that within the GAA at present there are "an awful lot of rules and an awful lot of cards".

And he goes on: "This means that you have a serious amount of interpreting to be done by the referees. And since this is the situation, then you are not going to get consistency. But what you look for is consistency in the very obvious things. We are not getting that at present and this is very disappointing."

McGrath, who expects to enjoy the rare bonus of dealing from a full hand when he names his side, saw experienced duo Martin O'Brien and Ryan McCluskey make early exits from the game against Westmeath last Saturday.

Both will be available for the clash with Dublin while Ruiari Corrigan is also targeting a starting place and could join his brother Tómas, man of the match with 1-7 against Westmeath, in the full-forward line.

But although McGrath harbours reservations about the application of the black card rule, he is emphatic that his team will not be intimated against Dublin.

"I don't think that Dublin's reputation or their quality will hold any fears for us," says McGrath, "I have asked the players do they want to be playing in front of 2,000 or 3,000 people or do they want to be playing in front of a full Croke Park and I don't have to tell you what their answer was."


All-Ireland SFC QF: Croke Park, Sunday, 4.00pm



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