Tomás Quinn hails ‘mental strength’ of formidable St Vincent’s
Veteran forward pays tribute to Diarmuid Connolly’s total commitment to the cause
St Vincent’s Diarmuid Connolly celebrates with Tomás Quinn after the Leinster club final win over Rhode. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Dublin’s strength in the world of Leinster GAA has been copper-fastened in the past nine days with provincial club titles in both hurling and football.
The domination in football is particularly pronounced and mirrors the situation at senior inter-county level.
St Vincent’s victory in Sunday’s final against Rhode brings to eight the number of titles won by Dublin clubs in the past 10 years with only Portlaoise (2009) and Garrycastle (2011) preventing a clean sweep.
Cuala’s win in the previous week’s hurling championship makes it the first time that the county has achieved the double, joining Laois in 1976 (Camross and Portlaoise) and Offaly in 1971 (St Rynagh’s and Gracefield).
Vincent’s have won four Leinsters in the past 10 years and supplemented that with two All-Irelands. Just four of the current players have won all four provincial medals: goalkeeper Michael Savage, centre back Ger Brennan and forwards Diarmuid Connolly and Tomás Quinn.
Quinn, 35 this year, has been a vital cog in the successes.
Now the commercial manager for Dublin GAA, on the field his free-taking has kept the team afloat in difficult periods and since his inter-county retirement, after being a panellist with the 2011 All-Ireland winners, his experience and calm have been essential for the club.
“I’m just trying to do what I can out there, try and win ball. It was hard to try and put your foot on the ground and turn there today. In terms of playing corner forward, it was more difficult playing than other days but I feel good.”
Most of the focus on the team falls however on captain and current All Star Diarmuid Connolly, who two months ago won his fourth All-Ireland medal with Dublin. His performances with the club have made him a busy player in recent years but have often been brilliant, as for instance in the 2014 final against Castlebar Mitchels.
On Sunday his use of the ball was at times mesmerising – to the extent that Rhode supporters desperately cheered his first mistake – and he had 1-2 scored by half-time and set up Quinn for a point by curving a free with laser accuracy into the corner forward’s hands.
His sixth-minute goal was a glorious piece of deception – the ball planted into the corner of the net when a no-frills point looked the likely outcome.
“It was a brilliantly-taken goal,” said Quinn, “and as a team it’s something we try and do. We’re an attacking team and if there’s a goal on you go for it and there is no-one better than him when he gets into that space and it was a great finish. It settled us a bit and gave us a platform to work from.”
His inter-county schedule notwithstanding Connolly has always been conspicuously committed to the club. Before last weekend’s final he told a press conference that his decision this year to engage with media was purely a reflection of his club captaincy and the honour he felt in representing St Vincent’s.
“Inter-county players have it very tough during the year and a lot of them when they come back to their clubs certainly don’t get to the levels they get to when they’re playing inter-county and probably the biggest testament to Diarmuid is he always comes back to us and never goes through the motions.
“It’s an ethos we have in the club. We expect it of him and he’d be told pretty quickly if he wasn’t but you can see how much it means to him. As a team it gives us such a lift when he comes in and you see how focused he is. You can’t not then go out and do what you have to do. That’s his best strength, his mental ability just to be tuned in and ready to go.”
Quinn himself contributed four points, two from play, in what he believed was the team’s best display of the season.
“You have to be pretty happy. You’re getting to a final in December and you’re producing probably our best performance of the year so, yeah, we are happy with that.
“It’s a difficult thing to come out and win a Leinster club championship and it’s a huge moment for us as a team. We have been there or thereabouts the last few years and to try and get back there probably shows the consistency and the mental strength that this group has and that’s probably the most pleasing thing when you look at what we did.”