GAA Football

Peter Quinn hoping to emulate Rossa team-mates and land his own county title in Dublin

Peter Quinn was a rising star in Magherafelt but found himself watching from the stand as they collected a first county title in 41 years. After a summer marking the likes of Bernard Brogan and Paul Mannion, he hopes to match his former team-mates' achievement when his adopted Thomas Davis play Ballyboden in Sunday's Dublin SFC final. Cahair O'Kane caught up with him…

Peter Quinn in action for O'Donovan Rossas at O'Cathan Park, Dungiven in 2016. Picture by by Mary K Burke

AS he stood in Bryson’s celebrating Magherafelt’s championship success, Peter Quinn couldn’t help but feel a certain emptiness.

These were his team-mates, only in the past tense. Still his friends, always. But when he decided to move to Dublin, he couldn’t possibly have envisaged any of what has transpired over the last eight weeks.

The 27-year-old was reduced to the role of a spectator in Celtic Park as the Rossas claimed their first Derry title in 41 years without him.

But whatever nausea existed from not being part of it could all be replaced by the same euphoria they felt this weekend.

He will take to the field in Parnell Park with his adopted underdog, Thomas Davis, who are seeking their first Dublin senior title since 1991 when they take on favourites Ballyboden on Sunday afternoon.

A summer that’s consisted of marking Bernard Brogan, Brian Howard, Kevin McManamon and – albeit briefly – Paul Mannion is one that underlines why he was so highly thought of by his native club and county.

It has been the strangest of summers for a man who felt like he was done with football.

“I got a wee bit tired of it. I’d tried the county scene. The club, we maybe didn’t see ourselves winning – obviously I’m wrong now.”

Having won a Colleges Allstar for his performances with St Mary’s in 2011, Quinn was on the Rossas’ championship team at 19, and called in to the Derry setup by Brian McIver when he was still under-21.

But having thrown his lot into a pharmacy degree at Queen’s and then done a year’s community work in Moneymore, he decided to leave home behind after Magherafelt’s exit from the 2016 championship.

Quinn, nicknamed ‘Patsy’ by his friends at home, came up the road for a couple of reserve games the following spring, thinking he could perhaps manage a life in Dublin and football in Derry.

“I wasn’t doing the work down here to push it. I just didn’t have the motivation to do that work.”

Leaving his family behind, especially mother Mary and grandmother Peggy – a former Derry camog and a sister of Frank Niblock of 1947 fame – was the biggest wrench.

He went to Dublin with no real intentions of playing football, and that was how it stayed until last winter.

The bug started to nibble at him again and he began to look around. Ironically, he strongly considered throwing his hat in with Ballyboden before an avenue into Thomas Davis opened up.

Ballinascreen native Eoghan Gilmore had come to Dublin for a year’s placement. His cousin was married to club captain Eoin Kirby.

“It was a laziness on my part, a handy way into a club – say to Eoghan to give him a shout. From that, he provided the manager’s number, Paul Kelly, and I gave him a call.

“I’m talking to him and the way I look at it, he was trying to sell me the team and what they had, whereas I think if I’d contacted Ballyboden, because they are that strong, they’d have said ‘come out, we’ll take a look at you and see what you’re like’.

“There was an article last week where their manager said they’re like an inter-county setup, so you can imagine the competition. I might have got on the team, I might not, but in hindsight, I’d much rather have done it with Thomas Davis and the group of lads there.”

Two years of chipping away in the gym hadn’t done the upper body any harm, but he soon felt the effects of his lack of fondness for cardio work.

“It was the toughest pre-season I’ve ever done. The lads at home would be laughing, they would say I don’t like doing pre-season. I was always playing Sigerson or on county squads and never saw them at that time of year.”

He’s grown to love the club, and started to believe something was possible when Thomas Davis drew with Raheny and beat St Oliver Plunkett’s well in the two championship group games played back in April.

Just their run restarted after Dublin’s All-Ireland success, Magherafelt were kicking into gear too.

Quinn travelled up home for their quarter-final win over Ballinascreen, and then the dates fell perfectly, allowing him to come up for the final victory over Glen.

He joined in the celebrations in his home town on the Sunday evening, joining the players in Bryson’s Bar, where they invited him upstairs while they had a meal among themselves before joining the fans.

“It was nice of them. You wanted to be there but it was strange being there too, times you didn’t feel as if you should have been there.

“I was glad I went down – of course I was gonna go down and celebrate it with them.

“It was hard for me, but you can imagine what it’s like for certain boys that have given so many years, the O’Brien brothers [Conan and Murtagh] etc, and just retired. They enjoyed themselves that night too.

“It’s not about individuals winning the cup, it’s breaking that deadlock on Magherafelt as a town, coming through and actually winning something.

“I feel it’s been tough for my parents and my family too. They’ve given so much as well. The rest of the town is celebrating and they weren’t part of that either.

“But hopefully this weekend we can do it and we’ll have something to celebrate ourselves.”

The immediate future will consist of keeping an eye on Magherafelt’s game against Kilcoo on Sunday as far into his own match preparation as he can.

With their own fate decided, the Magherafelt fans in Páirc Esler will turn their attentions to him, squeezing no doubt into the clubhouse bar to watch one of their own sons live on TG4.

As for the longer term, he’s not one for concrete plans. Dublin is where the work is, Cork is where his girlfriend hails from and Magherafelt is home.

He admits he talked before it all kicked off this summer about coming up home to play for the Rossas next year.

Right now, though, it’s Thomas Davis, and the biggest game of his life.

It’s seeing if he can match his friends back home by carrying off an upset and claiming that county medal.

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