GAA Football

Pete McGrath points finger at players over his Fermanagh exit

EXIT: Pete McGrath said that the Fermanagh players made it clear that they did not want him to continue in the role
By Gerry McLaughlin and Padraig Kelly

PETE McGrath has said that senior players forced him into Friday’s shock decision to step down as the Erne county manager.

Last Tuesday, Fermanagh GAA announced that McGrath would be staying on for a fifth season in charge, but, according to a source within the county, a subsequent players’ meeting voted 21-9 in favour of removing the Down native.

The squad was understood to be angry that they were not consulted on the matter before McGrath was ratified for another year, and hastily met to discuss their course of action. It is believed that not all players were able to attend the meeting, but those unable to were being kept up to date as it progressed.

McGrath was subsequently informed of this meeting and decided that his position had become untenable.

Speaking to The Marty Squad on RTE Radio last night, McGrath confirmed that it was the players that had forced his hand.

“There were things they weren’t happy about and there was a strong possibility that if the current manager or management team was put back in place that a number of senior players would not commit to Fermanagh for the season 2018.

"That really started the whole process of uncertainty. Management met again in the aftermath of that. Our management team had a long discussion again about was it wise for us to go ahead, should we go ahead.

“We felt that we should, we felt that whatever issues players had could be dealt with. Whatever views players had or complaints or gripes (could be dealt with).

"There are always issues. When you get 35 or 38 adults working together there's always going to be issues or differences of opinion and so on.

“But it just got to a stage really where players were saying ‘no’, they wanted a change. Without going into too much detail, it just led me to a position where I felt it made no sense for me to stay in the position of manager so I took the decision to step down.”

McGrath, who guided the side to an All-Ireland quarter-final two years ago, said that he didn’t foresee any reconciliation with the squad.

“I think that would be a very, very long shot,” said McGrath of a return. “I wouldn’t advise you to go to the bookies and place any money on that.”

Fermanagh GAA released a statement late on Friday night confirming McGrath’s departure and wishing him well for the future.

“We have been informed by Pete McGrath that he is resigning from his position of Fermanagh senior football team manager,” it read.

“Fermanagh County Committee thank Pete and his entire backroom team of the last four years for all their hard work and commitment, and acknowledge the progress made in respect of their work with the county team.

“Pete took over the team in 2014, travelling from Rostrevor, Co Down to fulfil his commitment to the role and during his period as manager worked extremely hard to develop a panel of players to represent the county.

“We wish Pete and all members of his backroom team every success for the future.”

McGrath’s final season was a huge disappointment with the team dropping down to Division Three and suffering nine-point Championship defeats to both Monaghan and Armagh.

The former Down manager has since been linked to the Antrim job, still occupied by Frank Fitzsimmons and Gearoid Adams, and said that he would never rule getting involved in the game again.

“It’s very hard to me to look down the road of time and see me not being involved at some level,” he said.

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