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McGrath: Fermanagh must have a go
30 Jul 2015 09:09
For many, Fermanagh’s date with Dublin in Sunday’s All-Ireland football quarter-final is seen as a “mission impossible”.
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The Dubs are the warmest of warm favourites to continue their march towards silverware in this year’s Sam Maguire race, and while Fermanagh are expected to mount a defensive shield in efforts to stem the blue tide, their manager Pete McGrath expects his side to offer an offensive threat.
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As to how the Ernesiders will approach the Croke Park encounter, McGrath told RTÉ Sport: “If you're ambitious enough to try and win the game then you have to take chances.
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“By the same measure, you can't go gung-ho because you have to be conscious of the potency of the Dublin attackers, individually and collectively.
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“They'll be great regard given to that and I'd like to think our defensive system will cope with that without making us totally bereft going forward. If you defend, defend, defend, and have no potency in attack, then you're going to be beaten anyway. It wouldn't be philosophy to go all defensive and go damage limitation. You have to go in a bit more positive than that.”
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McGrath’s philosophy is certainly refreshing and he went on to reference Westmeath’s efforts against the Dubs in the Leinster final.
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“Westmeath did set up very defensively, maybe ultra defensively They still didn't win the game,” he added.
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McGrath was manager of Down when they tasted All-Ireland success in 1991 and 1994. Not surprisingly, he is only too aware that the nature of Gaelic football has changed a lot since then.
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“The game now to a large extent is played more defensively than it was in the 1990s,” he said.
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“There was always defending in Gaelic football but now it's a more integral part of a team's strategy.
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“I've been on a learning curve to a certain extent in becoming familiar with that. Many discussions have been had with my management team and players to ensure that we’ve a sound defensive system which gives you a good bedrock to build a good performance.
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“We have played a certain way throughout the season and we can't depart from that for Sunday. The pillars of our system will still be in place for Dublin.”
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Fermanagh’s march to Croke Park has created a great sense of excitement within the county.
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“Thousands of supporters pouring on to the field, overjoyed and bursting with pride”, was how McGrath described the immediate aftermath of his side’s victory over Westmeath in last weekend’s qualifier at Breffni Park.
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However, he is confident that that euphoria and goodwill won’t hinder his players in the white heat of battle at Croke Park.
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“I will talk to the team about my personal experience of All-Ireland finals in the 1990s and how the Down players on those occasions approached the games. The games were their sole focus and they didn’t allow any peripherals get in their way.
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“The players will be in an atmosphere of noise and intensity that they've never experienced before and it's up to me to try and prepare them for it. Come the moment, however, each individual player will have to deal with it himself. I'm confident that my players have the right qualities, right character to deal with that frenetic environment which we will get on Sunday.
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“You have to be very single-minded so as to see the things that are essential to a good performance – and to see the things that can claw back your performance like getting caught up in the euphoria and the celebratory mood that has been in the county over the last couple of weeks.
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“Players can not allow themselves to get caught up in that. I do believe our players are mature and single- minded enough no to allow that type of mentality to drag energy out of their performance.”
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