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McGrath 'more than happy' to manage Ulster

McGrath 'more than happy' to manage Ulster

By Cian O'Connell

Pete McGrath's drive and desire for Gaelic Football hasn't wavered. Having steered Down to All Ireland titles in 1991 and 1994 McGrath is still on the inter-county beat with Fermanagh.

When the opportunity came to take charge of Ulster McGrath was delighted to accept the role too. "I was to do it last year and then it was called off because of the dreadful weather that weekend and its future seemed uncertain for this year," McGrath says. "But then I got the call from Michael Hasson and Im more than happy to do it."

It is a competition that always 'matters' to Ulster especially considering the zeal Brian McEniff had for the tournament. "Growing up in the sixties, when the Railway Cup was regarded as a really prestigious competition," McGrath reflects.

"Obviously with the finals in Croke Park on St Patricks Day with the games live on TV with an attendance of about 30-35,000 people, it did leave an indelible mark with me that the Railway Cup matters.

"Obviously going to the 1970s and 1980s it began to decline. But the one thing was that throughout the so-called years of decline, particularly in Ulster the then manager Brian McEniff and the players had great enthusiasm for it and that is something that has sustained itself right up until the present day really."

Several players, though, are unavailable this weekend, but McGrath is adamant that a strong panel will still be selected.

"There have been difficulties," McGrath admits. "I'm currently managing Fermanagh and for example certainly three of the players, Sean Quigley who was on the squad last year, has had Gilmore's groin operation, so he's out, Barry Mulrone who was on the squad last year has had surgery on his knee so he's out, Ruairi Corrigan would have been on the squad, but got a bad shoulder injury in the intermediate final in Fermanagh so he's out.

"Sometimes when you're contacting players from other counties and they see they're getting rehab done you might be sceptical, but I'm not because I know what's happening in my own county.

"Michael Murphy is taking a complete break from football for the moment, Conor McManus needs this time of year for rehab and that type of thing. The two Cavanaghs, Sean and Colm, are on holiday that weekend.

"There's no doubt that a number of GAA players take holidays in December because it's one of the few times they're sure of not missing out anything. There is a wedding in Donegal involving quite a lot of their players so they're out. But I think this is maybe something that's happening in all the provinces as well. You get on with it. I'd be more than happy that the squad we have would be up to the mark."

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