GAA Football

I wouldn't rule out a return to inter-county management: Down legend Pete McGrath

Pete McGrath is currently managing his home club Rostrevor but hasn't turned his back on the inter-county game

DOWN’S double All-Ireland winning manager Pete McGrath hasn’t ruled out a return to inter-county management in the future despite enduring a difficult spell in his last senior role with the Louth footballers.

In a wide-ranging interview, appearing in Saturday’s Irish News, the veteran coach says he hasn’t been discouraged by his experiences with Louth that ended after just 10 months in charge.

The 66-year-old, who had previously enjoyed a successful four years with Fermanagh, took the Louth reins for their Division Two campaign in 2018 – but the ‘Wee County’ were out of their depth in the higher division and McGrath stepped down after losing back-to-back Championship games.

“All I can say the players in Louth, as players and as lads, were very, very good. The reality is that in Louth the county team, you know, is not a major priority. It really isn’t compared to other counties. Division Two was difficult for them. Having said that they had some very good players and a wonderful set-up, but it just didn’t happen and it wasn’t going to happen. I said: ‘Listen, with the best will in the world it’s not going to change…’”

McGrath resigned despite having another year to run on his arrangement with the county board. Now managing his native club St Bronagh’s Rostrevor, who face Kilcoo in Monday night’s club championship clash in Newry, says age wouldn’t be a barrier to trying inter-county management again.

“To be successful in any job you have to be ambitious,” he said.

“Okay, they talk about young, ambitious managers. Well, I think there is no problem being a middle-aged, ambitious manager because that’s what life’s about. If you take that away from yourself and you say ‘no, I’m definitely finished at that level,’ then you’re sucking that capacity out of yourself. It could happen. If it does happen, then I’ll be ready for it.”

He added: “I might be 66 years of age but I know that I would have the energy and the enthusiasm and the know-how for one more plug at inter-county senior football. I wouldn’t doubt that. Now, the opportunity may never come.

“Football is football. There is no doubt when you’re managing at the highest level there is a certain intensity, a certain edge to it and there are demands put on you that aren’t put on you when you’re managing at club level. But yet, I’m managing Rostrevor and I’m giving it all I possibly can and I know I’m leaving no stone unturned with them.”

Asked if he thought his time in charge of Louth had damaged him, McGrath candidly replied: “It’s quite possible.”

McGrath, however, is delighted to be managing his hometown club in its centenary year, where his managerial career began some 42 years ago.

“It was my ambition to manage my own club. I played for Rostrevor for 23 years. Your club is your club, it’s your community, it’s your parish, and I kind of had it on my to-do list...

“My managerial career started with the Rostrevor U16 team back in 1977, I was still playing senior at the time. So, to manage your own club is something very special.”

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