GAA Football

Where are they now? Former Antrim midfielder Joe Quinn takes a walk down memory lane

Joe Quinn challenges Derry's Anthony Tohill for an aerial ball during the 2000 Ulster semi-final replay between the counties at Casement Park. Picture by Ann McManus

Age: 41

Club: St Paul’s

Position: Midfield

When did you play for Antrim?

1996-2008. I was 31 when I finished up.

What do you do nowadays?

I’ve been a lecturer in biomedical science and human biology at Queen’s University since 2010. Before that I worked in research.

Are you still involved in Gaelic football?

I was in involved with Antrim a few years and I was involved with the girls’ U16 county squad because my daughter was playing. I also helped out the juvenile teams in St Paul’s but I jacked that in because some people are nuts.

They don’t realise it’s about kids’ development rather than winning. People need to wise up and realise what it is. As long as kids are developing and having fun, learning the game and getting a love for the game, that should be all that counts.

I still go up and watch because my son plays, and I help out when needed, but I take a back seat.

What do you remember about your first game for Antrim?

I was 19 and I’ll never forget it. It was in the National League against Westmeath, October/November time, and I got put on and took off again without even touching the ball. I went on for the last 10 minutes, I think we were 13 points down and had two men sent off, and I was put in full-forward.

The ball didn’t come anywhere near me but I got taken off after about seven minutes, so it would be fair to say I was a wee bit miffed.

John Morrison was the manager – John’s a smashing fella. But I don’t know whether he was looking to see what kind of attitude I had or whatever, because I can’t for the love of God see that there was anything wrong footballing-wise because the ball didn’t come next nor near me.

John jacked in not long after and Ray McDonnell, God rest him, took the reins for the rest of the National League and Championship. Then he gassed me from the Championship panel along with a couple of other St Paul’s boys, Anto Finnegan being one of them – so it wasn’t a good year!

We told him we had to play for the club and we couldn’t make a training session, he said that was okay, then when we opened The Irish News on the Monday morning we had been dropped. It was an eventful time.

I got on the best with Ray too because he had been U21 manager at one stage, and I knew it wasn’t personal. It’s all water under the bridge now.

What is your best memory from your playing days?

The games against Down and Derry in 2000. It was 18 years since Antrim had won a Championship game and, while that didn’t drive us on, we always knew it was there. That’s two generations of Antrim footballers, so breaking that hoodoo was a huge monkey off our back. It gave the whole county a lift.

We felt we could push on and, although Derry beat us by a right few in the replay, even that game – bar the result – was fantastic. Those games gave people nearly as much of a boost as beating Down because that Derry team would have been pushing hard in Ulster.

There was just a great spirit coming into the camp that summer, boys wanted to play for each other and big Whitey [Brian White] just seemed to harness that energy.

When I was at Queen’s I won a Sigerson in 2000 and a Ryan Cup in 1999 so those are great memories too, playing alongside the likes of Enda McNulty, Cormac McAnallen, Philly Jordan, Brian Robinson, Paddy McKeever, Diarmuid Marsden, Justin McNulty, Aidan O’Rourke, Tom Brewster, Paddy Campbell from Donegal – loads of really good players. Also, we were playing under Dessie Ryan who I can’t speak highly enough of as a football man and a person. It was great to be part of that.

And the worst?

After the drawn Derry game in 2000 we were really disappointed because we felt it was a game that had maybe got away. Looking back, once the underdog has a chance and doesn’t get the win, it’s very hard. Eamonn Coleman was a very shrewd man who knew his football – that first day scared him and probably was the kick in the arse Derry needed.

Biggest character you played with?

There’s quite a few – Anto [Finnegan] is a character, Kevin Madden’s good craic as well, and me and Sean McGreevy would have a bit of to-ing and fro-ing as well. There’s plenty of them, but those three were big characters.

Are you glad you played in your era rather than the modern day?

Yes, because of the people I met. I don’t know whether guys are getting the same enjoyment out of it now. We played to win, whereas now it seems you play to not lose.

Any regrets?

The only thing I would maybe do differently is, during the off season when I wasn’t playing, do a bit more training, rather than hitting pre-season and it nearly killing me! But no, I played with some great people, worked under some great managers, so I can’t have any regrets

Interview by Neil Loughran

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