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Fitzsimons in driving seat as Antrim leave McGrath in dark


By Declan Bogue

Frank Fitzsimons appears to be in pole position to retain his job as Antrim senior football manager after a number of candidates connected with the role took a back seat.

It is believed that Fitzsimons was unwilling to run for the post if former All-Ireland-winning Down manager Pete McGrath entered the race, but the Rostrevor man has confirmed to the Belfast Telegraph that he hasn't had recent contact.

He said: "There was an interest expressed by a source in Antrim prior to me re-committing to Fermanagh. And at that stage, the person who made contact with me came through a third party and I said, 'At this stage my intention would be to stay another year with Fermanagh'. And we all know how that ended.

"Since then, there has been nothing. Not a thing. No contact made whatsoever."

Fitzsimons was meant to face further competition in the form of former St Gall's player and manager Carl McCabe, who won a couple of county titles alongside Christopher 'Tiffy' Quinn, but it is believed that the Omagh native isn't interested in a nomination.

Cargin, meanwhile, are nominating JC Devlin. All of the candidates will be revealed at next week's county board meeting.

John McKeever, the current Coalisland manager who led the Tyrone side to the county final replay last year, is also in the running, but with the Tyrone Club Championship yet to get under way, it remains unclear how serious he is about the post.

He had previously been linked with the post as Frank Dawson's successor in 2013, but pulled out as he was managing Cookstown at the time, who he led to the All-Ireland Intermediate Club Championship in February of that year.

The Portglenone man played for Antrim at all levels before an injury ended his career.

He would bring a high level of expertise to the role, likely including his current collaborator, former Derry footballer Conleith Gilligan, in his backroom team.

However, should Fitzsimons end up as Antrim manager for a fourth season, he will lose the services of last year's co-manager Gearoid Adams, who it is understood did not wish to go through the process of being nominated and subsequently interviewed for a role he was already in.

Meanwhile, McGrath also revealed that an offer to manage Westmeath is not likely to transpire.

"There have been tentative approaches made from Westmeath, but I don't think it is a runner given the sheer distances involved. You are talking about Rostrevor to Mullingar, it is nearly 90 miles," stated the former Fermanagh boss. "So I don't think it will materialise. The contact was made, like all county boards they are saying people are available or interested, and that's fair enough."

He also joked that he might take the year out that he promised himself after it ended badly with Fermanagh. He quipped: "I may have no choice.

"But I will certainly not be singing on the street corners I can tell you that!"

Belfast Telegraph


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