Donegal 'gamesmanship' angers Pete McGrath
Ulster Senior Football Championship quarter-final:
Donegal 2-12 Fermanagh 0-11
OUTRAGED and optimistic would be a neat summation of Pete McGrath’s mood after Sunday’s seven-point defeat to Donegal.
He was angered by the perceived “gamesmanship” of Fermanagh’s opponents - particularly in the second-half – but was confident the Erne men would enjoy another long summer.
Speaking to reporters at pitchside, McGrath repeated a line from last year some people might have privately scoffed at back then - that Fermanagh would still be playing Championship football come August time.
McGrath is of the same mind again. After Sunday, though, the Erne men will take some lifting as another Ulster Championship campaign passed them by. McGrath’s immediate feeling was one of pure frustration with how Donegal killed off the game in the second-half.
“Donegal had a lot of gamesmanship out there today, whether you like it or not,” said McGrath.
“Let's call a spade a spade. I mean, the number of times Donegal players went down, in some instances feigning injury, just to stop the clock, to break the play up… And the referee fell for it, he fell for it.”
McGrath was also miffed by the length of time it took to allow Sean Quigley to take his penalty - which was saved by Mark Anthony McGinley - just before half-time: “For him [referee Maurice Deegan] to allow that amount of time to elapse [over two minutes] and the penalty being taken, I mean, that's unacceptable.”
McGrath added: “Let's see what the authorities do about it. I mean, they will do nothing of course because it's Fermanagh. If it was Dublin on the receiving end of it, they might do something about it, but because it's Fermanagh…”
Quigley held his head in his hands when Mark Anthony McGinley dived to his right to make an easy save. Quigley nor Fermanagh recovered from that crucial miss: "Sean has a very good record at taking penalties," said McGrath.
"He is only human like the rest of us. The penalty was missed. We went in two points down at half-time, played very well the last 15 minutes of the first-half, we had momentum, got the first score of the second-half, went toe-to-toe and then the second Donegal goal punched a lot of the life out of us.
"We kept coming, but we had too many pussy-footed shots at goals and lost the ball in the tackle as well. But that's Donegal, they can defend in numbers and that's why they are hard to play against.
“The missed penalty - okay, these things happen - but we couldn’t dwell on that. Ruairi [Corrigan] had a chance prior to that that was blocked when the ball was heading towards the net in the first-half.
“The couple of goal chances they created, they took and maybe the goal chances that we should have carved out weren’t converted and that had a big bearing. Goals, at the end of the day, give teams energy and sap the energy out of the teams conceding them. They were critical.”
Fermanagh will face Wexford in the All-Ireland Qualifiers on June 25 at Wexford Park - and while the dust still hadn’t settled on this morale-sapping defeat, McGrath was already sounding a positive note.
“There is no reason why we can't be playing football in August,” he said.
“I don't say that blandly. The way we played there for quite extended patches of that game, I think shows me that we can match a lot of teams in the country. Seriously, we can.
“We just have to take a step back, sort a few things out that happened today and a few things that didn't happen today. If we can do that, I would be utterly confident we would go to Wexford to win that game. And let's see then what happens after that. But all our focus now has to turn to Saturday week. And it will.”
Last year, Fermanagh went down fighting to Monaghan. And while they weren’t as impressive in defeat on Sunday as they were against Monaghan, they were still beaten by a vastly experienced outfit.
“You just have to bear in mind that we were playing today against a highly experienced team, a highly physical team," McGrath added.
“A team that had physique and power in most areas of the pitch. Even coming out of defence, they were very powerful… When you look at the scoreboard, the two goals loom large and you can’t shy away from that.”