Pat McGinty and his wife Margaret. Photo: Thomas Gallagher
It was Fr. Dan Doherty who first asked Pat McGinty to line out with St. Catherine’s.
It was around 1970 and Fr. Dan, the priest in Killybegs, was organising players for a summer cup match in Dunkineely.
Pat, from Manorcunningham, was a gifted left back who had played in the Inishowen League with a team made up of players from Bonagee, Manor and Drumoghill.
He’d won plenty in the game, but when he lost his heart to Margaret Cunningham from Killybegs, he upped and settled in the south west Donegal town.
“It was around then that the Donegal League was set up,” Pat recalled this week.
“The first game we played was away to Kildrum Tigers. I remember it was in a field between Raphoe and St. Johnston and we won 1-0. I was credited with the goal, but believe it or not, I didn’t manage to score anymore after that.”
Pat would go on to play for seven or eight years in a St. Catherine’s side that included plenty of quality and experience. He recalls some great battles with different sides from all around the county during the early days of the Donegal League.
“I remember we played Letterkenny Rovers here in Killybegs and in the pub after the game, Charlie Collins’s mother Bida gave me a touch for not marrying someone from my own town,” he laughed.
Bida must have known that St. Catherine’s were onto a winner. Last Saturday night, well over 40 years since first donning the colours of the Killybegs club, Pat was honoured by the Donegal League with a Lifetime Achievement Award, such has been his contribution to football in the town. It was just rewards.
“I have to be honest, I didn’t expect the award,” Pat said this week.
“It was a lovely surprise to get and I was thrilled.”
Pat and Margaret were among the guests at Saturday night’s league presentation function where the league’s vice-chairman, Nigel Ferry, gave a brief run-down on Pat’s time with St. Catherine’s.
Pat has done it all - from playing and managing, to lining pitches and being part of the committee. He’s now the club’s President, and over recent years has helped oversee the development of the stand at Emerald Park and the astro-turf pitch.
He’s proud of the part that the soccer club continues to play in the town and noted that while it can be hard at times to keep players at St. Catherine’s, all the club can do is provide football and the facilities for the young people of the town.
Perhaps the most famous player to benefit from his time with St. Catherine’s is Seamus Coleman and Pat, not surprisingly, is keen to sing the player’s praises.
“The Coleman family and ourselves live across from each other in the same estate (St. Cummin’s Hill),” he said.
“We’d see him when he’s home and he’s a lovely fellow. He’d be out playing on the green with some of the young children any time he was home.”
Away from the football, Pat was a skilled carpenter and worked for various different companies over the years as a shop fitter and also at the boatyard in Killybegs.
Even though he’s now retired, he spends much of his time with the local Men’s Shed group where he’s happy to pass on some of his carpentry skills while also working on various local community projects.
Pat has two sons, Damien and Conor (a former centre half with St. Catherine’s). His niece Brid McGinty has followed in his footsteps and is actively involved in the Donegal Women’s League and Lagan Harps FC.
Pat still enjoys his football and while he was disappointed to see St. Catherine’s relegated from the Donegal League’s Premier Division this season, he feels there’s plenty of players coming through the club to ensure the senior team will be back in the top division before long.
Pat McGinty was one of four people honoured with Lifetime Achievement Awards by the Donegal League at their annual awards night. The others were Liam Porter (Raphoe Town), Mary McAteer (Rathmullan Celtic) and Hugh Rodgers (Arranmore United).