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On-a-roll Quinn is gathering no moss


IT'S the mark of Tomás Quinn's enduring excellence that, even had Diarmuid Connolly and Ger Brennan been available for St Vincent's this Sunday (Parnell Park, 2.0) when they engage Summerhill for the prize of an AIB Leinster club SFC final spot, the current Dublin senior pair may conceivably have been concerns number two and three on the Meath side's intelligence of the Dublin champions.

"He's cute," says former Dublin team-mate Bernard Brogan. "And he's been doing it for years. He mightn't be the quickest man in the world, but what he lacks in pace, he makes up in savvy.

"He could be marking the quickest corner-back in the country, but he'll still come out on top. The way he breaks and turns, it's tough to stop.

"That savvy, it makes up for shortcomings anywhere else and his eye for goal and how he could finish the ball ... there's no one else in Dublin who can do that like him."



It's now customary during Gaelic games' answer to the Winter Olympics to note how novel these provincial club championships are on account of the presence of some or other former inter-county star still thriving, despite a rounder gait or the demonstration of now glacial pace.

Not Quinn.

His class, clearly, hasn't waned. He isn't some greying footballing sage, rolling back the years in his playing dotage, merely continuing to exhibit class whilst somehow still looking fresh from county U21 trials.

More Ole Gunnar Solskjær than Benjamin Button.

"Experience is a big thing," reckons former St Vincent's team-mate Brian Maloney, a Mayo native who shared an inside forward line with Quinn in their All-Ireland club win of 2008.

"He's just so passionate about the game. He studies it. He thinks about it. He's very unselfish.

"He's an inspirational leader. There were a few of us on that team not from Dublin, but he made us all feel welcome and would go out of his way to befriend you. Genuinely, one of the nice guys of the game.

"I think he's just one of those gifted people," reckons Brogan. "You don't lose what Mossy has, that instinct. He's been a marked man in every game (this year), but he's come up trumps."

Brogan's last point is particularly prescient.

With Diarmuid Connolly playing predominantly in Vincent's half-forward line (or, as was the case last time out against St Loman's and against Summerhill, not at all through suspension), Quinn has been very much the focus of every opposition's most skillful/zealous/effective marker.

In two matches three days apart, he endured, survived and at times, thrived in Philly McMahon's company in the Dublin SFC drawn final and replay.

"I like to compete," Quinn stressed afterwards. "I like to mark guys who push me. I enjoyed marking Philly McMahon over the two games. It was tough going, but you push yourself against the best."

Three separate match reports of Vincent's Leinster win over St Loman's used the word "heroic" about his performance therein, noting the physical punishment endured and praising his contribution of seven points. Yes, mostly frees (five plus a 45), but the ability to endure a big hit, dust oneself down and carry out a place kick routine and accurate execution is a rare one.

That Quinn slipped from view in a Dublin context in the latter years of his inter-county involvement can more probably be aligned to the emergence of a raft of inside forward rivals of absolute top quality.

Similarly, he didn't possess the single bolt of lightening provided by Eoghan O'Gara's strength or Kevin McManamon's pace to fit the 'supersub' tag.

"He probably took on a different role with Dublin in his later years," explains Brogan. "In 2011, he would have been one of the leaders of the B team and he took on responsibility for making sure everybody on that team was pressing to get onto the A team and that just raised everyone's standards.

"He would have been marking the fellas who were starting in Croke Park and he'd be pushing them hard and that's how, even when he wasn't playing, he was still doing his bit for Dublin.

"I found it hard to believe that he didn't play more for Dublin over the last few seasons," says Maloney. "It's not easy to find talent like that. He would have walked on to almost every other county team in Ireland.

"And I never, ever, ever thought Mossy struggled with pace. He was always out in front. Always showing. And pace isn't everything ... not if you're as smart as Mossy Quinn."

Smart and ambitious.

No doubt, St Vincent's have gained from his inter-county retirement and, starved of their two Dublin players, his leadership and attitude will be yet more crucial to their cause.

"I'm a big believer in that if you do achieve something, you have to enjoy it. What we do is to be enjoyed," he stressed after Vincent's beat Ballymun at the second crack, and it's a theme Brogan recognises instantly. "He would have always talked about having a cool head on your shoulders and being relaxed out there and enjoying your football."

"That's when you play your best; when you're playing like a kid out in your back field. When you're smiling, things come a lot easier for you," he concludes. "That's how Mossy played his football ... still does."