Leo McGinley celebrated his 100th birthday at Ballyneety Golf Club
“I LOVED every minute of my life,” declares 100-year-old Leo McGinley at his birthday party in Ballyneety Golf Club on Sunday night.
He is surrounded by family and friends and there is a long queue of people waiting to warmly shake his hand. Born in Kilcar, Donegal, Leo played for his native county in the 1934 All-Ireland minor football final but it was in the traditional hurling stronghold of South Liberties that he would settle.
His late wife Mary lived across the road from his digs in Ballysheedy where he set-up his plant hire business and love blossomed. Eight children followed – six boys and two girls – and Leo is a proud grandfather and great-grandfather. Judging by the crowd in the golf club he is much-loved in his adopted parish and county.
In a chat with the Leader, Leo said he smoked for a while in his youth but he still enjoys a “pint of plain”.
“I love a pint of Guinness and a small Jameson,” said Leo.
“Will you have a Guinness tonight, sir?” asked the Leader. “I have drank one already,” he says quick as a flash.
Leo was due to turn 100 at midnight and as the clock ticked down to his centenary he said the years have gone fast.
“God they have, they really have but I loved every minute of my life. I really enjoyed it. I have a wonderful family, six girls and two boys, and they are all here tonight,” said Leo. Antoinette McGuire, one of his six girls, said her dad is a man full of integrity.
“He was a very hard-working man. He instilled a very good work ethic into his children and grandchildren but still enjoyed life and is great fun. He is a great father and was a great husband to my mother Mary, who died 10 years ago.
“She suffered a stroke in her sixties and he took great care of her. He is very good with children and is great with his grandchildren and great grandchildren. He is a very good friend and neighbour. He is great craic, he enjoys a good laugh and loved to dance,” said Antoinette.
Indeed, Leo is such a sociable person that he has been thinking about his birthday party for months.
“In February, he said, ‘You’d want to get going on the party’ and he had all his clothes picked out in March. He is very good with people of all ages. He would have gone to the Weigh Inn until it closed down and he’d have a drink with young people and old – every age would talk away with him and have great time for him,” said Antoinette.
After minor, Leo went on to play senior football with Donegal and also soccer. Sport remains a passion. Like many Irishman, Leo had to emigrate for work and drove heavy machinery in England. A hard grafter, he was offered a job by the Sheehy brothers, originally from Ballysteen, back in Ireland. After working with them he bravely decided to start his own plant hire business in Ballysheedy. Leo bought a dragline machine in the 1950s for £5,000 – a huge sum. He joined South Liberties and met his beloved Mary. Leo was involved in constructing many projects in his lifetime but building the love and friendships that was evident on Sunday night is his greatest achievement of all.