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Pete McGrath: Make sure to get the value out of every day even with no sporting routine



Missing the action: Pete McGrath at home on the touchline

Missing the action: Pete McGrath at home on the touchline

�INPHO/Lorraine O�Sullivan

Celebrating Down's 1994 All Ireland win

Celebrating Down's 1994 All Ireland win



Missing the action: Pete McGrath at home on the touchline

As the grass began springing up on the football fields in 2003, Pete McGrath found himself with the evening shadows getting longer and nowhere to be.


He had just finished his stint managing Down that spanned three decades and two All-Ireland wins, but he was at a loose end until Louth's Cooley Kickhams asked if he would help out with Championship preparations. They were knocking an open door.

The following year, McGrath was manager of Cooley. He went from there to roles with the Ireland International Rules team among others and came full circle to lead his home club Rostrevor last season.

This year, with no football ahead, it breaks a link back to the first team he ever coached, the Rostrevor under-16s in 1977 - 43 years of continual management.

"We were doing pre-season with Rostrevor when the lockdown began," he explains.

"We all have to be hopeful that there may be some sort of a club season. It may happen from September on, it may happen from October, it may not happen at all. But one has to be looking at the possibility there is a season of some kind, in some shape or form.

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"Mentally, I am still looking forward to that. Keeping in touch with players by text to see if they are still training and I do see a lot of them out running and all the rest of it."

Naturally, he's still out running himself, up to Cloughmore, 'The Big Stone' that sits almost 1,000 feet above sea level in Rostrevor. And he goes through his weights routine.

"But yes, there is a void," he concedes.

"At this time of the year, this time of the season in any team, no matter who you are managing, you are up and running, there is preparation, you are picking teams and trying to put down in paper the content of training sessions, where you hope to be in X number of weeks' time.

"But, by the same token, the situation we are in like this does force you to look at the world in different terms. And maybe you do come to the realisation that, despite the significance and importance of football in your life and what it means to you and others, there are those that are infinitely and ultimately more important.

"We all know how important football is to us and how it can shape someone's life. It's therapeutic for so many younger people in a very challenging world. But the halt we have come to has maybe had an effect on people. You do take a step back and look at it.

"It would be very easy to think internally and of your own situation but you have to look at what is out there and the real threat this poses and how this might impact upon what we consider to be normal living. It might impact for quite a while.

"All the things that would distinguish a weekend for me are not there. Today is just like yesterday and just as how tomorrow will be. So there are many challenges.

"I think the advice, although we have heard this a million times in our life, is to take each day at a time. And you get the value out of every day, no matter what the circumstances are."

When he's in this form, you just let the tape roll.

"For different people, this lockdown situation means different things," he adds.

"From a sports point of view, players, managers, we are all used to interacting with our own large groups and the cut and thrust of sport, preparing, the ups and the downs, the highs of winning and the despair of losing. And now that's all brushed out.

"There's maybe a blandness there now. That every day is so much like the other. But at the end of the day, we have to count our blessings. Things could be a lot worse and you have to look for things that are good in our lives and your day to day activities.

"As well as that, you have to think of the people who are suffering and are really on the front line of this and just hope that you don't have to put your toe in that water."

Still just 66, McGrath is always looking to gain something from an experience. So what had lockdown taught him so far?

"For so many of us, football or hurling does provide that framework, that road map in so many ways. It guides what your week looks like, your attitudes, your whole sort of interaction with other people. Everything is moulded almost and shaped by football.

"Nine-tenths of the people I meet want to talk football, so I have no issue with that.

"The way your week and month stretches out ahead of you is dictated by football. A programme of matches and training and all that type of thing, it does provide a lot of stability and a lot of motivation and helps you make sense of the world in many ways.

"Now, when that is taken away, you look to things closely connected with football, if it is getting up and going for a run, you can say 'Damn it, it is tough at the moment but we will hold on here.'"

He adds: "As well as that, you think of all the positives and the good things that football gives you and our inner optimism. I think when you are a footballer or a manager, you are super optimistic anyway because you always see the possibilities of what can happen with a player and what can happen with a team.

"You know it can change. The optimism in us says that, like everything else, it will all end and we might be better people as a consequence of it.

"You hope that the fatalities and casualties will stop and will drop off sooner rather than later and the people will be safe.

"In context, all those things together, helps you make sense of it and see a way through it and a future that will hopefully resemble the past that we were so used to.

"That's the way I look at it."

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