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Misguided Erne stars have got it all wrong, says ex Fermanagh boss Pete McGrath

 

By Declan Bogue

Legendary Gaelic football manager Pete McGrath has questioned the level of input that players have in the appointment of managers after he left the post of Fermanagh boss one week after being ratified for a fifth season.

And he revealed that other members of his management squad feel "disgust" after it was made known that some players were unwilling to return under McGrath's backroom team.

"When players veer into the arena where they feel they have some kind of entitlement or some kind of right to influence an appointment of a team manager, where does that ultimately lead to?" asked the two-time All-Ireland-winning manager with Down in 1991 and 1994.

"Does that lead to a situation where every team manager knows that he, ultimately, is at the mercy of players? And somehow he has to pander to players to keep them sweet?

"I know this is happening in other counties and I think it is extremely regrettable, I think it is a pernicious thing."

McGrath revealed to the Belfast Telegraph that the three Gaelic Players' Association representatives in the Fermanagh side requested a meeting with the management team, along with player liaison officer and senior selector Feargal O'Connor, county board chairman Greg Kelly and county secretary Tom Eddie Boyle.

The players brought a number of grievances to the table, including that they felt certain players were getting preferential treatment, and that there was bad feeling over the introduction of substitutes used in the Ulster Championship match against Monaghan.

"I had said that only the people who had done the work would be selected for the Monaghan game," explained McGrath.

"This particular player raised at the meeting the issue of why two of his team-mates were brought on, obviously alleging they hadn't done the work.

"I contested that and said that those two players had done the work, and had trained."

He added the final straw over his departure was: "At that particular meeting, the players started demanding off the county chairman what criteria was used to reappoint a manager, why weren't they consulted and it was then said that a lot of players would not play under the current management team that was reappointed.

"At that stage, I decided I had enough and I exited the meeting. I took the decision that there was no point in me remaining as manager."

While McGrath feels wronged, he is not prepared to hold it against the panel.

"I think the players have made a mistake. I think what they did was misguided. We all make mistakes in our lives. I think what they did was misguided and wrong," he said.

"But having said that, I will move on. I am in Rostrevor this morning and it is a beautiful, sunny morning and I am not going to be burdened by the events of this past week. I did all I could for Fermanagh for four years and I have no regrets, no animosity, and I am holding no grudges with anyone.

"Fermanagh football will move on. Fermanagh football existed an awful long time before I arrived and it will exist a long time after I have left. So I have no problem, no grudges. It's just disappointing how it did end. It shouldn't have ended at this stage."

After taking over from Peter Canavan in 2014, McGrath had a turbulent first season with a lot of player turnover.

The following year was the high point as the side won promotion from Division Three and went on an impressive qualifiers run to make it to the All-Ireland quarter-final, where they fell in a credible defeat to eventual champions Dublin.

Twenty of the panel from that day were unavailable for a variety of reasons for this year's Championship opener against Monaghan, and McGrath bore that in mind when he said: "Let me say this and I think it is important; these players over the last four years had committed very enthusiastically and very honestly to Fermanagh.

"The relationship that we, the management team, had with players was always transparent, it was robust at times - which it should be. It was honest.

"When there were issues they were discussed and things were taken on board and we moved forward together. When we decided to stay on, even after the first signal of player unrest, we felt, 'yeah, if there are issues we will deal with them', because we had in the past.

"They are a group of players who are ambitious, they have potential, we had a very poor year in 2017 and I don't mind saying it again, we were decimated.

"I was determined to lead the players and the county with the help of an excellent management team.

"And I must say that the county board who I worked with for a couple of years never, ever refused anything we asked. That's without mentioning the Fermanagh people generally, the supporters, the warmth and affection they had for the team and for myself and I don't mind saying it. Great people.

"So I am disappointed that it has ended in these circumstances because I think an awful lot of good was done over the last four years, there was still an awful lot of good to do, with a very, very good group of players."

Other counties, including Derry, who have a vacancy, could attempt to attract the Rostrevor man's services, but they could be knocked back.

"When Fermanagh came along, something attracted me to it. A smallish county with a good player base. That's why I went for it. I thoroughly enjoyed it," he said.

"But the future, I honestly don't know. On this morning in Rostrevor when it is beautifully sunny, I say sometimes maybe a couple of months without the cares of football might be a refreshing thing.

"And I am looking forward to that."

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