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Spate of injuries to key Fermanagh stars baffles Peter McGrath

By Declan Bogue

Fermanagh manager Peter McGrath has spoken out about his decision to effectively scupper a round of club fixtures in the Erne county, which has drawn an angry response from the Competitions Control Committee.

Originally, a round of league contests had been pencilled in for May 8. However, with a raft of players picking up injuries in previous club matches, McGrath called county training for that night, forcing the postponement of the games.

It prompted a statement from the CCC, who laid the blame squarely at McGrath's door, stating: "CCC want to make it clear that this situation has been forced upon us by the decision of Senior County Team Management to call a training session on May 8 in direct opposition to these fixtures, while making it clear that no county panel member would be available to his club."

However, McGrath has responded, answering: "For the first (club) league match, players played, came back and 11 players were unable to train.

"I am baffled by this, because at the end of the day, these guys have trained since November, they played hard in the National League campaign, they go off to club matches which, theoretically, shouldn't be as intense or as physical or as demanding, and yet you get this catalogue of injuries.

"This was a fortnight before the Armagh game (the Division Three league final).

"Thankfully, they were soft tissue injuries and they eventually got back onto the training pitch and all that.

"The strange thing is that during the National League, team management has nearly total control over the players.

"And then, when you come to the most important part of the season, the weeks prior to the Championship, that control is loosened considerably by the demands of club football. That's inevitable and you can't abolish club football."

McGrath also expressed concern for the crammed nature of fixture scheduling, citing how professional soccer managers frequently balk at the volume of games taking place in a condensed period.

The two-time All-Ireland winner is preparing his adopted county for their Championship opener against Antrim, a repeat of last year's tie at the same venue when the Saffrons pulled off a shock win, and he outlined how difficult it can be for players trying to serve the twin masters of club and county.

"Asking players to play two matches in 48 hours, or maybe three matches in eight days, it is asking a lot of amateur players. And then you are trying to factor in some preparation for the Championship," the Rostrevor man said.

"You hear soccer managers in England complaining about having to play three matches in the space of maybe eight or nine days, and we were going to play three matches in eight days here!"

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