Fermanagh’s league campaign saw them register three wins, a draw and three defeats, and McGrath states that there was mixture of the good and bad over the course of the seven games but that overall he is pleased with where they are, heading towards the June 1 Ulster Championship meeting with Antrim at Brewster Park.
“At the end of the league I think we are in a pretty good place,” he said. “It has been a strong league campaign, we have played a lot of good football but we have also played football that has been less inspiring at times, football that at times has been very naive. I think when the dust settles though we’ll look back on this and look at the panel of players and think that we are in a reasonably robust state of health. We have the time now and the opportunity to get to where we want to be in terms of June 1.”
The former Down boss is now turning his attentions to that clash with the Saffrons and he is looking for improvement from his players between now and then.
“We have a programme mapped out for them so every training session, every challenge match, every match they play for their club is an opportunity to improve. You have to have a panel of players who are totally committed to doing everything they can individually, and us as a group collectively, to ensure that on June 1 they are fitter, stronger and technically more proficient than they have ever been in their lives,” said McGrath.
Antrim have failed to live up to expectations in Division Four as Liam Bradley’s side failed to achieve promotion back to Division Three. However, McGrath says that they will soon put that disappointment behind them and focus on the championship.
“Whenever a league campaign ends for any team, the only objective they have in their mind is to win their championship match, whoever it is against. Antrim will put their league campaign behind them and take the positives out of it, we will put our league campaign behind us and take the positives out of it and set our sights on June 1. The road ahead is clear for all teams once the league campaign is over, the championship is all they see.”
And he stresses that it is vital for Fermanagh to avoid injuries in the weeks ahead.
“Hopefully you will stay clear of injuries, especially to your core of key players, and all managers will say the same. That’s the thing you have no control over.”
McGrath has added Paul Ward to his squad in recent weeks but attempts to get a number of others on board has so far proven fruitless.
“We have tried to add (to the squad), we have contacted a number of players but those players at this stage are unavailable. We contacted four or five players, one has committed and one is still waiting to make up his mind. A couple of others said they are not fit physically and want to get a couple of club games behind them. That’s where we are it with that.”
On Sunday, Fermanagh needed a goal from Barry Owens in added on time to rescue a point from the contest and although Fermanagh had very little to play for on the day, that was not the way McGrath was looking at things prior to the game.
“Apart from a couple of brief passages of very good football it was a very flat, uninspiring display. We were safe and you could argue that we had nothing to play for but that was not the pitch during the week. The pitch was that this was our last competitive game before Antrim, we wanted to finish as high up the league as we can and we have to go out and show the appetite, desire and urgency that we showed against Wexford last week, particularly in the first half. It was agreed that this was what we were going to do but instead what you had a very insipid performance.”
A number of injury concerns meant that the Fermanagh management had to ring the changes to side originally named and McGrath accepts that also played a part in the performance.
“In fairness, there was five enforced changes through injuries and if this today was a critical game there are a few of those men we could have played but obviously we weren’t going to risk it. When you take five outfield players out of a team and then you go into your next game seven days later there is going to be a bit of payback for that.”
McGrath did see a bit of fighting spirit with the late rally but he believes that there are warnings from the last two weeks that need to be heeded.
“We’re delighted to get the draw and at least we kept playing. We were four points down with about 90 seconds to go so at least that shows there is a certain quality but the overall performance was very lifeless and disappointing. You talk about timely warnings, we’ve had one this week and one for large parts of the second half last week, so we have to act on those,” he added.