Mickey Quinn of Longford poses for a portrait during the Tailteann Cup launch at Croke Park in Dublin.
Mickey Quinn of Longford poses for a portrait during the Tailteann Cup launch at Croke Park in Dublin.

Quinn believes Tailteann Cup will provide foundation to build on


By John Harrington

Longford captain, Mickey Quinn, believes the advent of the Tailteann Cup will make it easier for counties competing in it to retain players and build competitive panels for the long-term.

Experience has taught him that heavy championship defeats against the likes of Dublin don’t just leave you feeling sorry for yourself for a few days or weeks, they’ve even convinced some players it’s not worth playing inter-county football at all.

“Some of those games against Dublin, I don't know what our track record is the following year, but there’s a drop-off rate the following year, guys thinking 'hang on a minute, is it worth hanging around for that?'”, said Quinn at the launch of the Tailteann cup.

“Everything that builds up to those Dublin games, there's loads of people interested in it and there's probably a bit more publicity than other games.

“It's building up to it and it's set up nicely. But it's set up for the fall inevitably that happens, and that's the knock-on effect for the next six weeks after, the next year after that guys drift away, like 'Is it worth hanging on? Being on a county squad for that? Is that what you're training for?'

“That's what you hope fort the Tailteann Cup, that it's a competition that realistically every guy that's here today believes that it's something that they can win, whether it's this year or next year.

“Sam Maguire, even the provincials, aren't exactly that at the moment. It's a step in the right direction, and I think with a few tweaks here and there, it's something that can close the gaps.

“Obviously there's massive gaps in the tiers from the top two or three [teams], and then Division 2 and Division 3 is a big gap too. Can that help to close the gap and improve counties? And obviously counties have to get their own house in order too. But I hope it's something that should and does help.”

Mickey Quinn of Longford in action against Niall Kelly of Kildare during the 2020 O'Byrne Cup Round 1 match between Kildare and Longford at St Conleth's Park in Newbridge, Kildare. 
Mickey Quinn of Longford in action against Niall Kelly of Kildare during the 2020 O'Byrne Cup Round 1 match between Kildare and Longford at St Conleth's Park in Newbridge, Kildare. 

Longford have the second smallest population of all the 32 counties after Leitrim so because they’re already drawing their players from a small pool it’s vital that the best players make themselves available for selection for the county team.

That hasn’t always happened though because championship silverware has never really been a realistic prospect so not everyone is willing to make the huge commitment required.

Longford have a proud tradition of taking some big scalps in the All-Ireland Qualifiers, but a sustained championship run is difficult because they just don’t have a sufficient depth of talent in their panel.

“That's probably the thing that happens with us,” says Quinn. “When you have a tight panel, and the qualifiers are coming thick and fast, week-to-week, we've put in huge efforts for maybe that one-off big upset, and you don't have the personnel and quality to go again, that strong bench to go the following week.

“That's probably where that development in the off-season needs to improve, to try and keep lads interested, so going from year-to-year you're not losing five, six guys new to the squad. Of all the players that are playing this year, we've lost a huge number since last year.

“You talk about transition from year-to-year, there is a lot of young guys on the squad this year. You need to have a good spread, and we're probably lacking that at the moment. Hopefully this year can set us up for next year, getting a few more guys back into the squad.”

In attendance, from left; Mickey Quinn of Longford, Evan O’Carroll of Laois, Kevin Maguire of Westmeath, Declan McCusker of Fermanagh, Darragh Foley of Carlow, Martin O’Connor of Wexford, Conor Murray of Waterford, Killian Clarke of Cavan, Conor Stewart of Antrim, Teddy Doyle of Tipperary, Barry O’Hagan of Down, Mark Diffley of Leitrim, Dean Healy of Wicklow, Niall Murphy of Sligo and Johnny Moloney of Offaly during the Táilteann Cup launch at Croke Park in Dublin. 
In attendance, from left; Mickey Quinn of Longford, Evan O’Carroll of Laois, Kevin Maguire of Westmeath, Declan McCusker of Fermanagh, Darragh Foley of Carlow, Martin O’Connor of Wexford, Conor Murray of Waterford, Killian Clarke of Cavan, Conor Stewart of Antrim, Teddy Doyle of Tipperary, Barry O’Hagan of Down, Mark Diffley of Leitrim, Dean Healy of Wicklow, Niall Murphy of Sligo and Johnny Moloney of Offaly during the Táilteann Cup launch at Croke Park in Dublin. 

Quinn made his debut for Longford in 2012 after a three year stint in the AFL with Essendon and at the age of 32 remains one of their leading lights.

He took a year out from inter-county football in 2020 after the birth of his daughter Alice and feels like that brief break recharged his batteries.

“It was the best thing in the world for me,” said Quinn. “It gave me a bit of time, and that bit of a preseason where you're not trying to get yourself up for games every week and you had to bandage up.

“I tidied up a few things. Look, the body is not too bad, always a few niggles and knocks. The Tuesday-Thursday trainings, one a week nearly at this stage because they come thick and fast.

“Look, you're trying to manage things as best you could, obviously you'd love to be doing more. But less is more. I'm trying to play it a bit smarter. You're trying to nearly adapt and change your game a bit.

“But when you look out there in Croker, and you see a big stage, big pitch, and you're looking round at the pace of it, to try and hold that pace for 70 minutes against those top teams, that would retire a few players a lot sooner I think!”