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We can't afford to drop our levels, warns McGrath

By Declan Bogue

"Mediocrity. Major power cut. Slipped dramatically." Fermanagh manager Pete McGrath is already laying the foundation of what will become his side's motivation as they get set for an Ulster quarter-final against Donegal on June 12 in Ballybofey.

For the first half, you would have to say that Fermanagh were playing the perfect game. They had tied up Antrim's main scoring threat and imposed themselves on their opponents. Antrim were playing the game on Fermanagh's terms and they were neither fond of it nor could they cope with it.

However, a measure of social-loafing came into the equation and they simply took their foot off the gas.

"I think at half time, they all thought, myself included, maybe, despite what you say that this game is kind of won," reflected McGrath at the finish.

"And we sleep-walked our way through the second half and that is what we were doing for long periods. Keeping Antrim at bay and playing very poorly."

He continued: "For the first 12 minutes of the second half, nobody scored. And the game dropped quite a number of notches into mediocrity. Antrim kept chipping away and we missed quite a few chances and the extra pass not coming off when a goal chance maybe was possible."

"We did play the first half the way we wanted to play and largely on our terms. But we certainly had a major power cut for the second half. And that is something we will have to address."

Complacency certainly played a part here. Fermanagh weren't show-boating exactly, but they were guilty of enjoying the big day out at times and there was a distinct lack of ruthlessness. McGrath has been attempting to instil this into them, but it does show up from time to time, to use but one example in the closing stages of the league game against Armagh this year when they allowed a draw turn into a loss. Donegal have never suffered a team like that. Already, Fermanagh are thinking of the improvements that have to come.

"Yes, we have a lot to work on," McGrath acknowledged.

"We know Donegal are one of the top teams in the country this last number of years and if they do I hope we would not be that far away."

Put to McGrath that Donegal's age profile may render them somewhat vulnerable, he answered: "Well, guys in their 30s love to hear people say that: that their legs are going. Because they say to themselves: 'I'll show you whose legs are going.'

"No, Donegal are an experienced team and some players have been there for a while. Smart players use their experience. They measure their game according to their energy levels and I don't think that will be a major factor for us."

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