Monday 20 January 2020

Where are they now?

Willie Quinlan
Willie Quinlan

Willie Quinlan (Former Carlow footballer)

Although Willie Quinlan is one of Carlow's longest-serving and best-known footballers, his debut in Croke Park for the county was for the hurlers when he played on the losing side in an under 16B All-Ireland final against Down.

When it came to football, Quinlan was a late bloomer. Despite going for trials for the school team, he was never picked. However, he never gave up and always had high hopes of playing inter-county football.

When Quinlan was 16 he had an operation on his leg to remove a tumour and that set him back further. But he wasn't deterred and two years later he made the Carlow minor football team. From there he was called up to the under 21s and eventually the seniors. He played for Carlow for almost 15 years and since retiring has watched the game evolve and change.

"The physicality of inter-county football has reached new levels," says Quinlan. "When I started off, I was one of the smallest guys on the team at 5' 7'' and 11 stone; now it looks like you have to be 14 or 15 stone, that's the way the teams that are winning are gone. Guys are in the gym for months for pre-season; they are bigger, stronger and faster."

Club football for Quinlan was very important. In the 1990s, his club éire óg won five Leinster titles and last year at 45 Quinlan was still playing junior football with his club. His teenage son Niall was playing on the same team, making it a very special experience for the former inter-county footballer. Quinlan has also managed several teams in his club and is the current county minor team manager.

He still lives in Carlow town and for the last 14 years has worked for Vale Oil. Today Carlow's seniors take on Westmeath in the first round of the Leinster championship and Quinlan believes they have their work cut out for them.

"It's going to be difficult for Carlow. Westmeath are a team doing very well winning promotion to Division 1, while Carlow seem to be going back. They won their first couple of league games and then were unlucky in a few games, they also have a couple of injuries too that won't help. Lads don't seem to have the same appetite that they had for the last two years."

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