Numbers game no barrier to aiming high, insists Quinn
Published 29/05/2015 | 02:30
When a development plan for football in the county, '20/20 vision for Longford', was launched last November a simple question was asked by one of the contributors.
"Why can't we aspire to winning All-Ireland titles?"
Population is the clearest reason. With 39,000 inhabitants recorded at the last Census in 2011, Longford has the second lowest of the 32 counties, just ahead of Leitrim.
The last county to win an All-Ireland senior football title with a population of less than 100,000 was Offaly in 1982, highlighting the obvious imposition a lack of numbers can be.
Derry, Down, Tyrone and Armagh, All-Ireland champions in the last quarter-century, can all point to the community divisions in their counties that can skew the population index to success somewhat.
The example of Monaghan, a county with just over 60,000, fourth smallest, backs up any blueprint which encourages bigger thinking with smaller numbers as a third successive Ulster final beckons for them.
With just 24 clubs the scale of Longford's task to compete at the highest level becomes clear, especially with Dublin in their sights this weekend.
But, true to the ideals of '20/20 vision', Longford's Michael Quinn (right) shares the view that ambition must be big and small numbers can't be used as an excuse.
Look over the border into Roscommon at what can be achieved for a county of their profile. Glance down to Tipperary where hurling consumes them yet the flames of football are being allowed to catch hold, he urged.
"I think a Leinster title is achievable. A Leinster final definitely," he figured.
"That is the biggest step for Longford. Instead of looking at yearly goals or short-term goals, like we'll play Offaly and we'll play Dublin and then maybe the qualifiers, you have to have short-term goals that will hopefully impact in the future.
"That's what that vision is doing. Your Tipperarys and Roscommons have these kind of plans in place and it seems to be fruitful enough for them.
"We have players coming through. It's a matter of keeping them involved but also, if there's a mindset there and everyone buys into it, it's huge. That has probably has been lacking in Longford.
"If the work is being done, if it's being supported by the county board and backed up by the players, sponsors and supporters, and everyone is buying into it, I don't think it will be a problem.
"Obviously there will be limitations, population-wise and numbers-wise, But if you're able to do it at minor and U-21s it's just trying to keep that together and bring it on to senior.
"If you're competitive at that level, what are the factors that are influencing you (not to be successful) at senior. I think mindset is something that holds us back.
"Hopefully, if we address it with the right attitude and mentality, we can build on something in three or four years' time when those young guys come into their peak then," he said.
"But without playing the top-four sides you don't really know exactly where you are in comparison so playing Dublin is going to be a learning curve."
Quinn feels they lose talented underage players too quickly in transition to senior level.
"We are very competitive, minor, U-21s on a given day can put it up to anyone.
"What's the difference there? The step up from U-21 to senior is proving to be the difficulty for ourselves and some weaker counties.
"It's trying to manage them. From the team that won a Leinster Minor Championship in 2010, there is only three of them on the senior panel now.
"You can't afford to be losing that amount of players. It's too high for a county like Longford. You would easily want eight to 10 of those 21s coming on to the panel."
Thus, for a county with limited resources that needs all hands on deck all of the time, losing their top scorer Sean McCormack, after the group stages of the league were completed, was a setback.
"He is the kind of character that is great to have around the place for training, good personality and good charisma," said Quinn of his Killoe Emmet óg club-mate.
"But hopefully, further on in the year, he might be able to come back in and offer something. It's just giving him time. He is finishing off teaching practice at the moment."
"He has gone through a difficult time with his dad passing away. With that, on top of everything else, he just has to take things as they come and see what is best for him.
"He is just trying to come to terms with everything so he needs a bit of time. Hopefully, when he is finished teaching practice, then he might have his hunger back."