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'Players were saying they wanted a change. I felt it made no sense for me to stay as manager'

Pete McGrath has revealed player unrest was behind his surprising Fermanagh exit.

Image: Presseye/INPHO

IT WAS A strange week for Pete McGrath.

On 5 July, the Fermanagh county board announced the Down native would be remaining at the helm for the 2018 season. Nine days later, McGrath met with county chairman Greg Kelly and handed in his resignation.

In the intervening period, a number of Fermanagh players indicated they wouldn’t return to the county colours if McGrath continued in charge. The player heave was the major reason for his decision to perform a U-turn and step away.

“It was obvious that there were things [the players] 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 2018,” he told Marty Morrissey on RTÉ Radio 1 last night.

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

“We felt we should, that whatever issues players had 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. But it just got to a stage where players were saying, ‘no’, they wanted a change. It led me to a position where I felt it made no sense for me to stay as manager. I took the decision to stand down.

Fermanagh players make their way onto the pitch Source: Presseye/Philip Magowan/INPHO

“The issues that were mentioned to me were not major issues, and in fact in my view in some cases they were non-issues.”

The 64-year-old replaced Peter Canavan in charge of the Ernesiders in November 2013, leading them to the All-Ireland quarter-final in 2015. He also took the county from the basement tier to Division 2 of the league, although they were relegated in the spring.

The 2017 championship was a disappointing one for Fermanagh, who endured nine-point defeats to Monaghan in Ulster and Armagh in the qualifiers.

“I feel a bit disappointed the way it ended because over the four years I was in Fermanagh I felt there was always a very mature, honest, transparent, robust approach taken in terms of how we were going to go forward together.

“I didn’t allow players to stay in a comfort zone and at different times players weren’t allowing management to stay in a comfort zone, which is a good thing. That’s a very positive dynamic.

“I felt there was great trust. Everything has to come to an end and you always hope when the end comes that it’s going to be one in which you walk away and you feel you’ve reached the limit, and there’s no acrimony, and there’s no ill feeling and that trust and integrity is still there. Unfortunately, the way this ended, that isn’t the case. That’s my only regret.”

McGrath famously led Down to All-Ireland titles in 1991 and 1994.

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Kevin O'Brien

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