Tuesday 17 October 2017

'Players not entitled to choose managers' - Ousted manager Pete McGrath

 

Former Fermanagh manager Pete McGrath. Photo: Philip Fitzpatrick/Sportsfile
Former Fermanagh manager Pete McGrath. Photo: Philip Fitzpatrick/Sportsfile

Declan Bogue

Legendary Gaelic football manager Pete McGrath has questioned the level of input that players should have in the appointment of managers, after he left the post of Fermanagh manager one week after being ratified for a fifth season.

He revealed that other members of his management squad felt "disgust" after it was made known that some players were unwilling to return under McGrath's set-up.

"When players veer into the arena where they feel they have some kind of entitlement or some kind of right to influence an appointment of a team manager, where does that lead to, ultimately?" asked the two-time All-Ireland winning manager with Down in 1991 and 1994.

"Does that lead to a situation where every team manager knows that he ultimately is at the mercy of players? And somehow he has to pander to players to keep them sweet.

"I know this is happening in other counties and I think it is extremely regrettable, I think it is a pernicious thing."

McGrath revealed that the three Gaelic Players Association representatives on the panel requested a meeting with the management team, along with player liaison officer and senior selector Feargal O'Connor, county board chairman Greg Kelly and county secretary Tom Eddie Boyle.

The players brought a number of grievances to the table, including one that they felt certain players were getting preferential treatment, and that there was bad feeling over the introduction of substitutes used in the Ulster championship match against Monaghan.

"I had said that only the people who had done the work would be selected for the Monaghan game," explained McGrath.

"This particular player raised at the meeting the issue of why two of his team-mates were brought on, obviously alleging they hadn't done the work."

"I contested that and said that those two players had done the work, had trained."

He added the final straw over his departure was: "At that meeting, the players started demanding off the county chairman what criteria were used to reappoint a manager, why weren't they consulted and it was then said that a lot of players would not play under the current management team that was reappointed. At that stage, I decided I had enough and I exited the meeting. I took the decision there was no point in me remaining as manager."

While McGrath feels wronged, he isn't holding it against the panel.

"I think the players have made a mistake. I think what they did was misguided. We all make mistakes in our lives. I think what they did was misguided and wrong," he began. "But having said that, I will move on. I did all I could for Fermanagh for four years and I've no regrets, no animosity and I am holding no grudges with anyone.

"Because Fermanagh football will move on. Fermanagh football existed an awful long time before I arrived and it will exist a long time after I have left. So I have no problem, no grudges. It's just disappointing how it did end. It shouldn't have ended at this stage."

McGrath's men won promotion from Division Three in 2015 and then lost to Dublin in the All-Ireland quarter-final.

Unavailable

Twenty of the panel from that day were unavailable for this year's championship opener against Monaghan, and McGrath bore that in mind when he said, "Let me say this and I think it is important; these players over the last four years had committed very enthusiastically and very honestly to Fermanagh. The relationship we had with players, the management team was always transparent, it was robust at times - which it should be - it was honest.

"When there were issues they were discussed and things were taken on board and we moved forward together. When we decided to stay on, even after the first signal of player unrest, we felt, 'if there are issues we will deal with them', because we had in the past."

He continued: "They are a group of players who are ambitious, they have potential, we had a very poor year in 2017 and I don't mind saying it again, we were decimated. I was determined to lead the players and the county with the help of an excellent management team.

"And I must say that the county board who I worked with for a couple of years, never ever refused anything we asked. That's without mentioning the Fermanagh people generally, the supporters, the warmth and affection they had for the team, and for myself and I don't mind saying it. Great people.

"So I am disappointed that it has ended in this way because I think an awful lot of good was done over the last four years, there was still an awful lot of good to do, with a very, very good group of players."

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