Peter McGinnity still enjoying the game
By Cian O’Connell
Peter McGinnity is still going strong. Remaining relevant McGinnity, now 65 years of age, continues to find a way to enjoy Gaelic Football in Fermanagh.
As a player and manager McGinnity delivered for club and county so particular pride is attached to Roslea Shamrocks’ 2019 adventure.
“We would probably be one of the smaller clubs, population wise,” McGinnity admits ahead of Sunday’s Fermanagh SFC Final against an all conquering Derrygonnelly Harps outfit.
“We had a very successful team in the 1950s, we had a succesful team in the 80s and noughties. We've had to wait for the cycle to turn. This is probably near the end of a cycle, what we are on at the minute, maybe that is why we are so delighted to be in the final this year.
“It is even the more sweeter because we didn't expect to be there. We just didn't expect to be there. You have four or five contenders in Fermanagh, we weren't sure where we were in the pecking order, but we are absolutely delighted.”
So around 18 months ago McGinnity agreed to step back on to the sideline with Roslea again and a new challenge embraced.
“I had been there for maybe seven years and I was away for four,” McGinnity reflects. “Then I came back, but the only problem we have is that we are playing Derrygonnelly, who have been the best team by a mile in the last number of years.
“Like Dublin they are going for five in a row. I will probably feel better this week than I will next,” he chuckles.”
Joy can always be found in a sporting journey, but the competitor still lurks within the 1982 All Star McGinnity.
“You get satisfaction when you win, it isn't that satisfying when you don't,” says candidly. “It is all consuming of course when it is your own club.
“Roslea have been doing a lot of developing in the last few years, a second pitch, a walkway for the community and so on.
“There is little else socially in Roslea. There is a dancing club on a Friday night for older people, things like that, but a lot of what happens in Roslea centres on the GAA club.”
McGinnity took teams elsewhere, but being in charge of the local club is interesting. “It certainly is, it definitely is different,” McGinnity acknowledges.
“The only drawback is I played with a lot of the parents of these players. That may not have always gone as smoothly as you would like. You know people too well, the generation of people.”
In the hallowed halls of St Michael’s Enniskillen McGinnity was a renowned player growing up before returning as a teacher, and Gaelic Football was always placed high on the agenda.
A splendid Hogan Cup triumph earlier this year supplied an injection of hope, but is it too easy and simplistic to suggest this is a boost to Fermanagh’s medium term prospects at inter-county level?
“No, any success we get is massive,” McGinnity replies instantly. “Any encouragement we get, St Michael's, as have other schools, have provided players for the Fermanagh minor, Under 21, and senior teams.
“St Michael's because of their success, and it is as much to do with the exposure to players from other counties, that is a massive help when you go to represent your county.
“To be playing against people from other counties. So obviously this group of players in St Michael's, they are a bit special.
“I played four years MacRory Cup football with St Michael's, nobody ever mentioned the Hogan. We didn't know what the Hogan Cup was. It is such a monumental achievement, we would hope that we would benefit from that for the next 10 years. We just have to wait and see.”
In his own playing days Fermanagh were a force in the underage grades up north, but the landscape has altered with so much emphasis placed on development in traditionally strong counties. “It will take them guys, some of them anyway, because others are developed enough to play senior football very shortly,” McGinnity adds.
“The bulk of them will need conditioning and so on. You must remember if we get the right 15, 18, 20 players we will be very competitive. We played in an All Ireland semi-final in 2004 because the players were there.
“Against the likes of Tyrone and Dublin if it was 30 a side we wouldn't have a chance, we'd never have that depth of numbers and quality. Our best teams would have 16, 17, 18, 19, maximum 20 players able to contribute.
“There is an advantage and a disadvantage in the numbers. Obviously you'd love a better pick, to be able to ask players to leave or not leave depending on their quality.
“At the same time the camaraderie, the fact the boys know each other, a lot of them would have went to school together. There is a tight knit community when it comes to the county team then.”
It counts for a lot, though, according to McGinnity, who feels that passion for the green and white jersey burns throughout Fermanagh.
“Yeah, it is probably hard for people who don't live in Fermanagh to appreciate that there is only a total of 20 clubs,” McGinnity states.
“Some of the people working with teams would know every single player in Fermanagh. There would be no surprises, unlike in Tyrone or places like that where you might go away somewhere to play a match, there could be a boy playing corner forward, burning you, and nobody would know who he was. It is just incredible.”
McGinnity is optimistic about the future and believes that spirit and pride in Fermanagh will be reflected on the playing fields of Ireland in the coming years.
“The young people, you'd have to admire the way the GAA with their Cul Camps and the kits, any match in Fermanagh you will see plenty of passion, sometimes a bit too much passion,” McGinnity laughs.
“The Ladies were playing in Croke Park on Sunday, unfortunately they didn't win. The County Final was supposed to be on that day, but Fermanagh in their wisdom decided to give the Ladies priority. So there was nothing on apart from the Ladies in Croke Park which is probbaly something to do with the community. There is a healthy community in Fermanagh.
“We'd like to have more numbers, but it is what it is. Clubs like Derrygonnelly would match up against any club in the country in terms of the work that they do with facilities, reaching out to the rest of the community, Ladies Football. They would match up with any club in the country, I'm quite sure.”
With former teaching colleague Brendan Rasdale part of the Derrygonnelly backroom McGinnity merely emphasises the sense of familiarity which usually is part and parcel of Fermanagh Club Championship encounters.
“Funnily enough, one of the boys that looks after them, Brendan Rasdale, I taught him and then I taught with him,” McGinnity says.
“Sean Flanagan too, I played with him way back in the day even though he would be much younger than me obviously. I would've known a lot of them at St Michael's - the Jones' particularly, Tiernan Daly. Roslea and Derrygonnelly would know each other very well for a whole lot of reasons.”
There is a healthy respect and appreciation for the standards attained by Derrygonnelly during a remarkable run. McGinnity, though, has Roslea back in the reckoning once more.