GAA Football

Sean Quigley: 'Simply put, I had no motivation to be there, I had no real interest in being there – I didn't want to be there'

This time last year the love was completely gone but, having taken a break from the inter-county scene, Sean Quigley is looking forward to what 2021 will bring. He talks to Neil Loughran...

Fermanagh's Sean Quigley before the Ulster Senior Football Championship Quarter Final between Fermanagh and Donegal at Brewster Pairc Fermanagh on Sunday May 19 2019 Picture by Philip Walsh.

SEAN Quigley is back in the Fermanagh fold but, with no collective training for at least another fortnight, Strava is his only opponent at the moment.

Considering how he felt 12 months ago, though, the Roslea man is just happy to be running towards something that matters once more.

Then, at the start of the kind of year nobody could have foreseen, Quigley just wasn’t feeling it. Such an integral part of the Rory Gallagher regime, yet here he was going through the motions as the Dr McKenna Cup signalled the start of another new campaign.

The conversation with new Fermanagh boss Ryan McMenamin ended amicably and the door remained open, but he didn’t return until 2020 was done and dusted – for his own good, and for the good of his team-mates.

“Ah, it was one of those things, basically, where I didn’t really want to be there,” admits the 28-year-old.

“If I had continued it was probably going to have a detrimental effect on the team as well as to myself. I didn’t think I was adding anything to the squad. I wasn’t fit, I wasn’t in good shape.

“Simply put, I had no motivation to be there, I had no real interest in being there – I didn’t want to be there… it’s hard to say why.

“I had been involved with Fermanagh from I was 16, playing county minors, right up through the 21s and senior so you’re talking 12 years continuous involvement, and playing senior football for eight or nine of them.

“Maybe the enjoyment had gone out of it. Don’t get me wrong, you always love playing for Fermanagh, I always enjoy playing the games, but when you’re packing the bag and putting it in the boot of the car at seven o’clock in the morning and not seeing home until 11 at night, eventually that takes its toll.”

Yet Gallagher’s two years at the helm, with McMenamin as number two, had lit a fire under Fermanagh - and Quigley.

In the first year a dogged, defensive style delivered promotion from Division Three and also brought the Erne County to a first Ulster final in a decade.

Quigley was used to being the focal point of the Fermanagh attack, but was now being asked to tackle like mad all the way back to centrefield, as well as making the most of any opportunity that came his way.

As much as he enjoyed the good times that came their way, playing that role felt completely counterintuitive at the beginning.

“When Rory came in he changed a lot of things. I would’ve based my game on the complete opposite of what he wanted, and it took a wee while for me to adapt to that.

“Like, I didn’t start most National League games initially. With the way football had been going, and probably still is, it didn’t really suit so-called flair players or players who maybe brought something else to the game.

“There is nearly a template of a player now who could play anywhere. That’s not the player I am and I certainly don’t want to become that player. I’d rather try and excel in one position than be mediocre in 10.

“But look, we can all say we want to go out and play brilliant, expansive football - at the end of the day, you want to play winning football. Fermanagh boys will do whatever it takes to get to an Ulster final and win it.

“When Rory was there we did whatever it took. It wasn’t pretty but if Fermanagh won an Ulster title playing as the most negative team ever, do you think that would bother Fermanagh people? I don’t think it would.”

They didn’t get over the line on the big day and, after a 2019 campaign that failed to reach the same heights, a rethink was required. Gallagher left, eventually popping up in Derry, while ‘Ricey’ took sole control in Fermanagh.

When Quigley decided to step away, he had no idea how long it would be for. In the early part of spring and when post-lockdown sport returned in summer, he played a bit of soccer for Orchard Farm in Division Two of the Fermanagh and Western league around his championship commitments with Roslea.

“It was great craic and it helped pass a Saturday, I really enjoyed it. After that though I just relaxed. I didn’t get too worked up about football…”

He watched from the wings as Fermanagh fell through the Division Two trapdoor before bowing out of Ulster to Down. As the Championship evolved, so grew the Cavan story too.

Working at the Mannok Cement factory in Derrylin, right on the border with Fermanagh's Breffni neighbours, he feels the Cavan rivalry more deeply than most – and takes a couple of seconds to consider his answer when asked about their march to the Anglo-Celt.

“Look… I was pleased for Cavan because, to be fair to them, they weren’t lucky.

“They beat Monaghan, beat Antrim, beat Down and beat Donegal. To win an Ulster Championship from the preliminary round, you have to take your hat off to them, they deserved it and they had some big performances. And they have probably spurred on a lot of other Ulster teams on the fringes.

“I wouldn’t say if Cavan had been beat I’d have cried myself to sleep or anything, but I was pleased to see them win.”

There was no real pull back to the game when the Championship was in full flow but, after the dust settled, he had another conversation with McMenamin.

Yet even with the League likely to be pushed back into March, Quigley is taking nothing for granted as he builds his fitness back up.

“I’ve been out of the loop and when you come out of that, it’s a shock to the system.

“I’m 28, I mightn’t have that many years left of county football. ‘Ricey’ has a provisional squad and it mightn’t work out but I thought I’d give it another rattle.

“I didn’t want to be sitting thinking about what might have been, but it’s early days yet, I’ve a lot of work to do in terms of getting into shape for county football.

“It’s not what it was seven or eight years ago when you could go in, not be in great shape and play Division Three football.

“You’re coming up against Derry, Longford, Cavan this year, so we’ll see how things go.”

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