I still feel I can get better every time I play – Quinn
JUDGING by his performance in their win over Summerhill, St Vincent's veteran Mossy Quinn has lost none of his guile, but in the run-up to this weekend's AIB Leinster club SFC final, he has been feeling his age.
It's less to do with the hectic schedule than his youthful team-mates. Quinn is one of just a handful of survivors from the club's last foray beyond the boundaries of Dublin, which ultimately ended with success on St Patrick's Day in 2008.
There have been a string of similarities between that campaign and this. In both, Vincent's beat the Westmeath and Meath champions, and they now face the challenge of Portlaoise, who they beat in the Leinster semi-finals six years ago.
"One of the young guys asked me about (Portlaoise) and I told them that Pat Gilroy was playing that day, and he kind of laughed," Quinn smiled. "That was the reaction.
"We played Tyrrellspass in the 2007 final, which was down in Mullingar, and one of the lads told me that he was behind the goal but doesn't remember watching the game because they were more concerned about getting back onto the bus."
The intervening years have brought Quinn to the peak with the 2011 All-Ireland SFC title, and the end of his inter-county career.
This year has been Quinn's first season out of the Dublin set-up, and the club have reaped huge rewards. He has been front and centre all year for the Marino men, but it was in the absence of suspended county duo Ger Brennan and Diarmuid Connolly against Summerhill that he really delivered.
He shouldered the weight of responsibility, kicking 1-8, 1-4 of which came from play.
With Quinn in that sort of form, it would be easy to question whether, even with all the county's attacking options, he stepped away from Dublin a year too soon. Quinn himself, however, is convinced the time was right. He's just 32 now, but he saw the end of his inter-county career coming in the shape of Dublin's new wave.
Then-Dublin manager Gilroy invited a handful of the All-Ireland-winning U-21 side into his set-up as they looked to defend Sam Maguire in 2012. Game time had already been scarce for Quinn, but the arrival of such complete young footballers ushered him towards the exit door he had already been eyeing.
"After we won the All-Ireland I knew I was going to come back the following year to see if we could defend the title," Quinn recalls. "That was the year Jack (McCaffrey), Ciaran (Kilkenny), Emmet (O Conghaile) and Kevin (O'Brien) came in after winning the (U-21) All-Ireland.
"I had been pushing and in my head I thought that a few lads had won the All-Ireland and they mightn't be as hungry and there might have been a chance for the team to change a little bit. But then those guys came in and you saw the speed they move at.
"We have had guys come in over the years at 18 or 19 and you could see immediately that they weren't ready and it would take two or three years for them to make it, but these guys came in and they were more than ready. Chasing Jack McCaffrey is no fun, so I knew.
"And I hadn't been playing as much as you'd like and it made the decision easier. You see the guys who have come in like Paul Mannion. And Cormac Costello is going to come in too. I was happy to do what I did for as long as I did but you have to know when it's time.
"There's a big difference between Parnell Park in November and Croke Park in July. And there are things like Jim Gavin's open, attacking style.
"During Pat's years it was very different. It was the right thing to do at the time but as a forward it was tough going. So watching Jim's style of play you are looking at the forwards thinking, 'that would be fun', but I don't think they miss me."
The arrival of baby Clodagh the day before the Dublin club SFC quarter-final brought a new element to his life. Since then, games have been coming thick and fast as a good night's sleep has become more rare, but Quinn has no intention of stopping.
For him, leaving Dublin meant a change of focus, rather than the beginning of the end.
"I feel relatively young. Sometimes there's a rush when guys get to their early 30s that people start talking about retirement and start talking about when they're going to finish up. As long as your body is holding up and mentally you still want to be playing, there's no reason why you can't keep going.
"Do I think my best years are ahead of me? I don't know. I still try to get better every time I train, I still believe I can improve as a footballer. Whether that's naive or whatever I don't know, but every time I go out there are things I feel I can work on and still keep getting better."