Former Lisbellaw manager Jimmy McGrath selects the best Fermanagh and Western XI he has seen playing against his side

James McGrath had two spells as Lisbellaw United manager spanning 18 years in total. 1993 – 1997 and then 2003 – 2015.

Having left the club to pursue Gaelic commitments in 1997, the club was in Division One. Upon his return six years later, they were in Division Three. In 2005 they won Division Three and the following year clinched the Division Two title to return to the top flight.

They soon started to compete for the major prize and after a few seasons as runners up, they bridged a 29 year gap to claim their first Mercer league title since 1981 when they won the 2009/10 Mercer Cup.

They would win three league titles in a row as they dominated the local game at this time while they were runners up on four occasions following epic title races with Enniskillen Town and Strathroy Harps over a seven year period.

Two Junior Cup Finals were reached but, on both occasions, Lisbellaw fell short at the Final hurdle while the Mulhern Cup proved equally elusive.

Four Kennedy Cups were lifted however over the years as McGrath and Lisbellaw enjoyed a great run as one of the best clubs in the local game.

McGrath admits it was difficult to pick an eleven. It was tough enough to remember the whole host of players he would have came in contact with over the past two decades and he could have picked four of five teams but settled for this.


John Pedan (Irvinestown) He must have been 6ft 6inches and a hard man to get past any time we faced them.

Right Back:

Marty Flanagan (Strathroy Harps) A constant in the Strathroy teams we had some fierce battles with over the years, Marty would never give the ball away as he came out from the back in possession. A very tidy and intelligent footballer.

Centre Backs:

Benny Boyle (Strathroy Harps) Filled the void left by two excellent centre backs in Benny McElholm and Seamus Fanthorpe. A stylish centre half, good in the air and with his feet. A danger on all set plays.

Raymond Carroll (Clabby Strollers) In the early days he was a thorn in our side with Clabby before he signed for me. As good a centre half as I even seen, worth 10-12 goals a season and a major reason why we had the success we did at the heart of our defence.

Left Back:

Davy Little (Clabby Strollers) Like Raymie, a key cog for Clabby as they were competing for honours before he moved to Lisbellaw. A magnificent left foot which created and scored so many goals over the years, giving all teams he faced, plenty of bother.

Right Wing:

Davy Harper (Lisnaskea) Classy midfielder both defensively and attacking he had it all in abundance.

Centre Midfield:

Ryan Hanna (Enniskillen Town/Tummery) An all rounder with a great engine and a great competitor. Drove the Town side forward and would have scored some big goals against us in Mulhern Cup semi finals. Still producing top quality displays and a real driving force for Tummery since his move.

William Burleigh (Enniskillen Rangers) a box to box workhorse. One of the toughest tackling and powerful players in the league. Good in the air and a goalscoring threat at all times. A player I always admired.

Left Wing:

Tabs McClintock (Enniskillen Town) out of position here but a quality player that had to be on the side. Made the game look so easy and always found himself with time on the ball to play a killer pass.


Gary Beckett (Enniskillen Town) – Exceptionally gifted footballer who went on to have a fantastic career at Derry City which I followed closely. Returned to the Fermanagh and Western in the twilight of his career to dictate and control games. Class is permanent.

Trevor Donnelly (Shelbourne) Once scored 6 goals against us. A clinical finisher who only needed half a yard to find the net. Got goals from all angles and one of the best men I ever seen put the ball into the net.

Other notable mentions Shane O’Brien, Andy Crawford, Conor McGuigan and Nigel Birney.