GAA Football

Back in the day - The Irish News July 25 1997: Peter McGrath re-appointed as Down senior football manager

Peter McGrath in Down colours - 20 years ago he was re-appointed as his native county's senior football manager. Pic Seamus Loughran

Pete McGrath has been re-appointed manager of Down's senior football squad. At a county board meeting in the Donard Hotel in Newcastle last night, delegates voted unanimously in McGrath's favour.

The St Colman's, Newry tutor continues the longest reign in Ulster football management.

Down PRO Fintan Mussen said McGrath was the only man considered for the job: "We had an almost full attendance at the county board meeting and Peter was voted in unanimous fashion.

"It's good news for the county that Peter will stay on and he's the man that can rebuild the county side.

"There are players who have returned to county duty and some coming through and we hope everyone will get behind the manager," said Mussen.

McGrath took over the senior post in September 1989 following a stint as county minor boss.

In his first Ulster senior championship in 1990, McGrath watched his side come back from the brink of defeat against Armagh at Casement Park in the first round, before going on to win the All-Ireland the following season.

Three years passed and a team described as "over the hill" went on to defeat Cork in the All-Ireland Final of 1994. Tyrone knocked Down out of the Ulster Championship preliminary round this year after a replay.

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Michelle Smith confirmed she will defend her European titles in Seville next month if she smashes a European or World record tonight at the Grove Pool.

Smith, speaking in Belfast last night, said breaking the 200m Butterfly world short course record, which has stood for 17 years, would be the perfect confidence boost. Up until now, the triple Olympic gold medalist has given no clear indication of whether she would travel to Seville to defend her 200m Fly and 200 IM titles, but last night says she feels in great shape.

"Obviously I wouldn't be attempting to break the record if I didn't feel my preparation has been going well," she said.

"Training fit and racing fit are two different things though and it's only when you get up onto the blocks that you really know what kind of shape you're in. But if things go well at the Grove, I'll be going to Seville."

Tonight's record-breaking attempt will be her first competitive race since last year's Olympics where she took three golds and a bronze in the 200m fly - the distance she is swimming this evening. The 26-year-old, who travelled to Belfast from her home in Kilkenny with her husband Eric de Bruin yesterday, has been offered an undisclosed five figure sum to break the record by TNT Express Worldwide.

The record of 2mins 5.65secs, which was set by American Mary T Meagher in 1981, and the European record of 2mins 7.18secs are both well within Smith's sights this evening.

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John Bland blasted a blazing trail yesterday and a warning that he means business in the British Seniors' Open Championship at Royal Portrush.

Making full use of the ideal morning conditions the 51-year-old South African carded an eight birdie blitz for a starting 66. Bland assumed control of the £350,000 tournament before half the field had began their challenge for Brian Barnes' crown. It was a stunning start by the man who has been burning it up in America.

"I took full advantage of the wonderful conditions," said Bland, who was a prolific winner in his native country for 21 years and is now currently seventh in the US money list.

"I was always very competitive on the European tour right up until I was 50 so that has helped me in the seniors' race. This is a real gem of a course – one of the world's best and I'm happy with that score."

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