MARTY O’Brien has warned that it could prove detrimental to the future of Fermanagh football if Pete McGrath isn’t reappointed as senior intercounty manager.
McGrath said he would take time out to consider his managerial future after Fermanagh bowed out of the All-Ireland race to Mayo on Saturday, and O’Brien is cautiously hopeful that the Down legend will be back next season for a fourth year at the helm.
The Fermanagh defender said: “I’d imagine that the county board and Pete will sit down in the next few weeks and decide that. I imagine the county board would like to have him back.
“There’s a good set-up in place and it’s improving year-on-year and I don’t see any reason to split that up, we’ve seen in Fermanagh that sometimes when you change a manager for a few years that it takes two or three years to recover.”
Fermanagh’s season came to a controversial end in their second-round qualifier against Mayo, with Joe McQuillan coming under fire for awarding Aidan O’Shea a late penalty for an alleged dive while being tracked by Che Cullen.
Cillian O’Connor made no mistake from the spot as Mayo overcame a six-point deficit at the break to run out 2-14 to 1-12 victors, and O’Brien admits the circumstances made it a doubly bitter pill to swallow.
“It’s tough, it’s very disappointing. We were close but there’s not much that can be said about it. Their goal coming so late left us having to change our shape. If they have had got that goal earlier maybe we would’ve been able to chip a few points back but the goal coming at the time it did was pretty rough.
“I was taken off injured about two minutes before it, from the stand it was hard to see it (the penalty incident). I didn’t know whether it was a penalty, but it was clear enough after that it wasn’t.
“You’re definitely angry with what happened, the player that was adjudged to have committed the foul, Che Cullen, is a good clean defender. He actually got black carded against Donegal for a non-black card offence, I thought he’d been having a great game against Michael Murphy in that match, and to give a penalty for very little is very harsh.”
O’Shea came under a barrage of criticism for his apparent theatrics, but O’Brien admits finding it difficult to muster any sympathy for the 6’4 Breaffy man.
He said: “There’s people on the telly talking about poor Aidan O’Shea going to work on Monday morning, but I wouldn’t feel sorry for him. He drives about in a free car – he gets enough from the GAA without getting penalties as well. He has this, that and the other so I wouldn’t be feeling too sorry for him.”
O’Brien, who has been a rock in the Fermanagh defence all season, says he will now concentrate fully on his club duties with Devenish, and he admits harbouring some regrets about how the intercounty season unfolded.
“We’re happy to stay in Division Two. That was one good thing but apart from that – we beat Antrim I know, but we didn’t perform against Donegal and we didn’t see it out against Mayo so it’s disappointing to have the season end like that.
“We’d two big games against two big teams and we lost both of them regardless of what the circumstances were.”
GAELIC Life columnist Kevin Cassidy fully expects Donegal to end Fermanagh’s quest for a first Ulster title on Sunday.
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