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McGrath: We've plenty to be proud of

By Declan Bogue

When the man doing the talking is as eloquent as Pete McGrath, sometimes you let the words do the work.

"What has this game shown us about ourselves, what did that game show our players to be?" he asked rhetorically.

"What light did it shine on their character, on their courage and on their spirit? I think that's more important than the scoreboard. What does it tell you about the men who are filling the jerseys? I think it says so much positive about them, about all those values and characteristics and qualities that are needed."

Thank God for second acts in sport. While Down have never felt the need to bring the two-time All-Ireland winner back into their senior fold since he stepped down in 2002, he has fetched up on the other side of the province. And he is loved in his new surroundings after a memorable year for Fermanagh, topped off with a final half of football that did justice to their own ambitions.

"We knew at half-time that this was going to be a massive up-hill struggle," said McGrath of that juncture.

"The choice was stark - lie down, roll over and take a 25-point hammering, or, as Eoin Donnelly said, in fairness to him, the last words going out of the changing room, 'we have had a great year, we have given Fermanagh people a lot to cheer about, we are not going to sign off here today on a poor performance. We are going to lift this for the second half'. They did and I think they deserve great credit for that."

As for his opponents, he feels despite Kerry's seven goals against Kildare, Dublin are very much on track to win an All-Ireland.

"I certainly wouldn't bet against them," the 61-year-old insisted.

"Kerry were very impressive as well, but all those qualities that we keep eulogising (Dublin) for; their athleticism, their fluency, their relentless work rate - it will take an exceptionally good team to beat them. Whether that team is out there, they may be, I think Dublin are a class apart."

How he took on the Stephen Cluxton 'own goal' was light-hearted.

"The ball went in and I turned away and then for a moment I thought Sean Quigley was going to raise the green flag! At the end of it the goal was given and when people read the papers they are going to see that Fermanagh scored 2-15 against Dublin. It's not bad."

And so, to next year, and he is bullish in his assertion.

"I think an Ulster title is everyone's ambition, so why should Fermanagh not be able to stand up and say our objective for next year is to win our first ever Ulster Championship?

"No other county can have that as their objective - a first ever. But we have and it would be such a marvellous achievement for this group of players if they could go on and win a first ever Ulster Championship for Fermanagh. We have the players to do that and I don't mind saying it."

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