Pete McGrath laments Fermanagh's complacent performance against Antrim

Fermanagh's victory means they will now face Donegal in the quarter-final

BY Cian Roche 20:57 Monday 16 May 2016, 20:57 16 May 2016

Fermanagh held off a second half Antrim fight-back to book their place in quarter-final of the Ulster Championship against Donegal.

Pete McGrath spoke on tonight's Off The Ball and assessed his side's performance at Brewster Park.

"We had, not total control, but a lot of control in that first half, although Antrim did miss a number of scoring opportunities that could have got them a little closer.

"Going in at half time and leading 0-9 to 0-2, it was also particularly hot yesterday. That was the first day when players were playing in such heat. I think it was always going to be difficult to sustain the intensity in the second half.

"Maybe all of us deep down, including myself, thought that the game was done and dusted. That of course can be a fatal thing and in fairness Antrim kept chipping away in the second half, our performance dropped and they almost caught us. We finished that little bit stronger and thank God we got the goal and the point to make our position that little bit stronger."

Donegal pose a much more potent threat, pipped only by an imperious Monaghan performance in last year's Ulster final. McGrath says his side need to impose and perfect their own playing style if they are to have a chance of progressing.

"What we're looking to bring in defensive stability. We watched Antrim in the league final and we knew that their attacking strategy was definitely about getting long early ball into their two front men. We had a system to deal with that and I think we did quite competently. 

Sean Quigley has been a revelation up front for Fermanagh. Image: ©INPHO/Presseye/Andrew Paton 

"Patience as well. When you're going forward and you meet a mass defence, the temptation is to shoot hastily or prematurely and we're trying to teach them to be patient, retain possession and wait for the gap to appear. I thought in the first half we did bring an intensity to the game and which Antrim weren't accustomed to having played in Division 4. We were determined to try and make that count. Our Division 2 campaign was a tough one, we played a lot of good teams and survived in that division. We felt that if you brought that experience of playing at that level to the game that it would pay dividends and it did.

"There were certain elements in the first half which were pleasing, that was the kind of blueprint we wanted to impose on the game and in the second half it became a lot more disjointed. Antrim did begin to play a bit better and as I said they kept chipping away and got to within three." 

McGrath also pointed out the importance attacking and defensive systems have in the modern game and how previously players were more interested in playing man-for-man rather than putting their faith in tactical structures.

"The Down team that I managed in the 90s, the type of football played then was one-on-one. They didn't stick rigidly to their positions but forwards were generally forwards and defenders were generally defenders. Ok half-forwards came back and helped out and I suppose the Down philosophy right back from the 60s was that we were always blessed with scoring forwards, forwards who could score goals and we tried to play open and expansive football. 

"When I came to Fermanagh, that was the vision. When I arrived and we were in Division 3, we didn't get promoted but we were the second top scorers in the division. We went out of the Championship on a very high score as well.

"Someone said recently that in hurling normally the better hurlers will win the game, but in football, quite often it's the team with the better gameplan that will win the game. There is an element of truth in that so I think that's way the game is played now."

You can listen to tonight's full podcast by clicking the link below.

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