Pete McGrath to consider future with Fermanagh

Pete McGrath has said he will take some time to consider his future with Fermanagh
Neil Loughran

PETE McGrath is considering his future as manager of Fermanagh in the wake of the Erne County’s All-Ireland Qualifier exit to Mayo last weekend.

The Rostrevor man succeeded Peter Canavan in the Erne hot seat in 2013 and, after a difficult first year, guided Fermanagh to Division Two before leading them to an All-Ireland quarter-final against Dublin at Croke Park last summer.

Despite consolidating their place in the second tier of the National Football League and an opening Ulster Championship victory over Antrim, the Ernemen fell short when they came up against Donegal in the last eight.

They got back to winning ways against Wexford in the Qualifiers, before Mayo brought a premature end to Fermanagh’s Championship summer in Castlebar last Saturday.

That was a particularly bitter pill to swallow, with McGrath left fuming after referee Joe McQuillan awarded a controversial penalty following Mayo forward Aidan O’Shea’s theatrical tumble in the square.

Veteran defender Niall Cassidy confirmed his retirement from the inter-county scene after that game, and a statement from the Fermanagh County Board has suggested McGrath is undecided on his future.

“To be honest I have put in two years work and it does take up a lot of time managing any side whether that be club or county,” says McGrath in the statement.

“I might only need a week to think about it or I may need two months but I feel I deserve that chance to consider what I want to do for 2017, what the players may want and how I can push the team forward or if a new face is needed.”

There has been some speculation that, should he decide to walk away from the Fermanagh job, McGrath could be in the frame for a post in his native county.

Having led Down to All-Ireland titles in 1991 and 1994, McGrath remains extremely highly regarded within the Mourne County, and has managed at U21 and minor level – as well as on the Down club scene - within the last decade.

Down County Board chairman Sean Rooney yesterday confirmed that manager Eamonn Burns had been ratified for another year in charge of the senior team, while James McCartan will continue in his role with the minors.

Former Antrim boss Frank Dawson is no longer in charge of the Down U21s, with Rooney insisting the county board is in no rush to make an appointment.

McGrath previously led the U21s to the cusp of an All-Ireland title in 2009, only to be denied by an injury-time goal from Cork’s Colm O’Driscoll.

Burns, meanwhile, faces a major job if he is to reverse the Mournemen’s ailing fortunes.

During a challenging first year in charge for the Bryansford man, Down dropped out of Division One after losing all their games in a disappointing League campaign.

Things didn’t get much better in the Championship when, despite a strong first half showing against reigning Ulster kingpins Monaghan, Down ended up losing by 19 points after a spectacular second half collapse.

The Mourne County’s misery was compounded on June 25 when they were sent tumbling out of the Qualifiers after extra-time by a resurgent Longford in Newry.

Discussing his own future after that defeat, Burns said: “We’re not going to make a knee-jerk reaction. We’ll contemplate over the next week or two and see where we are.”

When asked yesterday if he was happy that Burns was to continue for another year, county board chairman Rooney said: “Absolutely, yes”.

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