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Pete McGrath wants a neutral venue for Farney test

By Declan Bogue

Fermanagh manager Pete McGrath has vowed that they will be working hard to ensure that the upcoming Ulster semi-final between themselves and Monaghan, to be played on June 21, will be hosted on neutral ground.

Malachy O'Rourke's Farney side played Armagh in two Ulster semi-finals last year and Cavan the previous year, with St Tiernach's Park in Clones the venue for all three games.

"That's a decision that we might have an input into, there have been semi-finals played in Breffni Park before and they talk about spreading the matches around these massive stadiums, and here is an opportunity," McGrath said after their quarter-final win over Antrim.

Monaghan are 13/8 favourites for the Ulster title and in order to beat them, Fermanagh will have to bring significantly more vigour than they displayed in this low-key encounter.

McGrath hardly needed that pointed out to him as he explained: "We know that the next game will be a lot more demanding, a lot more of a challenge, and we have three weeks to get our heads around that and to get up to that, as I am sure the boys will."

He continued: "Obviously Malachy O'Rourke has done a marvellous job with Monaghan and he knows these players very well, but having said that we would know the Monaghan players very well."

The 1991 and 1994 All-Ireland winning manager is enjoying life on Erneside and a win like this brings the Championship animal out on the retired Rostrevor schoolteacher.

He reflected: "The first round game, even if you are an experienced team it can be a bit unnerving. Even if you have prepared well, you don't really know, until the action begins, how you are going to deal with the intensity and the pressure."

However, he knows how fortunate Fermanagh were to get the most significant call in the game, when Sean McVeigh was red-carded on 31 minutes for an elbow on Ciaran Flaherty.

Asked what he made of the incident, McGrath chose diplomacy, stating: "The linesman was very close to the incident and he consulted with the referee and the decision was taken. They thought it was justified so I will let them comment on it."

McGrath was right in saying that, but so too was Antrim manager Frankie Fitzsimons with his perspective when he said: "I thought the Fermanagh guy slipped as Sean was coming in with the shoulder. Maybe I'm wrong but I thought it was harsh enough. I am not sure. I will have to look at it again."

The Lamh Dhearg clubman noted correctly that the numerical advantage was always going to be a critical factor in the outcome.

"They have some quality players and we were always going to tire with 10 to 15 minutes to go with being a man down," he said.

"In the game nowadays you can't be down one man. It was nearly an impossible task down to 14 men."

The game was a complete reversal from last year's shootout that produced 36 scores, but Fitzsimons noted that pragmatism was always going to win out with Fermanagh expected to bring similar intentions after a spring of getting their defence sorted.

"Listen," added Fitzsimons, "We were going to trying to play defensive but we got beat by seven or eight points. It is one of those things and we just have to take it on the chin and get up and look forward to the back door."

Belfast Telegraph


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