In his book, ‘Ulster – The Path of Champions’, published in 1993, Jerome Quinn asked a group of players, and managers to select the best Ulster team of their time.
Brian McEniff, Pete McGrath, Art McRory, Jimmy Smyth and Jim Reilly all chose Peter McGinnity, either at midfield or wing-forward.
McGrath labelled McGinnity a “Rolls Royce player, effortless in his movements”. Jimmy Smyth described him as a “class act who could play all over the place”, while the others were hugely complimentary too.
He was selected at right half-forward on that team, the position where he won Fermanagh’s first All Star award in 1982, but it was as a midfielder that he established a fine reputation in a lengthy career, during which he won three Railway Cup medals with Ulster.
The closest Fermanagh came to championship success in his time was in 1982 when they reached the Ulster final, losing to Armagh.
Otherwise, there were frequent first round exits, often as early as mid-May, which was very frustrating for a player of McGinnity’s quality.
He was ahead of his time in calling for a change to the system. In 1987, he proposed a secondary championship for teams beaten in the first two rounds of the provincials.
“Changes will come in the future, but they will be too late for me,” said McGinnity, who was 33 at the time. It was another 14 years before the All-Ireland qualifiers were introduced.
The qualifiers played a big part in offering Barry Owens, who we have chosen at No 2, a chance to raise his profile to such a degree that he became the first Fermanagh man to win two All Star awards.
Both were for his excellence at full-back in 2004, when Fermanagh advanced to the All-Ireland semi-final for the first time, and 2006 when they reached the Round 4 qualifiers. He was outstanding in both campaigns.
1. Peter McGinnity, 2. Barry Owens, 3. Paul Brewster, 4. Tom Brewster, 5. Marty McGrath, 6. Rory Gallagher, 7. Collie Curran, 8. Ryan McCluskey, 9. Raymond Gallagher, 10. Dominic Corrigan, 11. Seán Quigley, 12. Paddy McGuinness, 13. Jimmy Cleary, 14. Che Cullen, 15. Peter Greene, 16. Eamonn Maguire, 17. Ciarán Campbell, 18. Eoin Donnelly, 19. Pat McCann, 20. Mark Little
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