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'He'd move hell or high water to get to this one' - the Derry family links for Leitrim player

Shane Quinn plays for Leitrim in the Division 4 final on Saturday.

Leitrim defender Shane Quinn.
Leitrim defender Shane Quinn.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

SATURDAY AFTERNOON’S DIVISION Four final is very much a family affair for Leitrim defender Shane Quinn.

Son of former Ridge County star Mickey Quinn, who played on the last Leitrim team to secure promotion almost 30 years ago, the Mohill man’s mother hails from Coleraine.

So, on the Westerners’ first Croke Park appearance since 2006, it just had to be Derry, the place where Quinn spent spells of his childhood, who provide the opposition.

Whatever ice that existed, Quinn admits, was broken when the teams met in round six of the league, a game which saw the Oak Leafers prevail on a seven-point margin.

Meetings of the counties haven’t been all that common, hence his Derry-based grandfather had it earmarked from the fixtures’ release, only for illness to rule him out of attending. But nothing will keep him away from their second, more-important duel, though.

“He’d move hell or high water to get to this one,” Quinn quips.

Shane Quinn and Ronan Holcroft Leitrim's Shane Quinn and Ronan Holcroft of Louth during last summer's All-Ireland qualifier in Carrick-on-Shannon. Source: Evan Logan/INPHO

“Once the fixtures came out and we were playing Derry in Derry, he was on to me straight away; ringing the house. He was telling me the ins and outs of Derry and trying to organise a photo of the two of us before the game, getting on to the County Board to see if I could get released for it before the game.

“Unfortunately, he couldn’t make the match because he was ill and in hospital that weekend, but he’s been ringing looking for a Leitrim jacket off my mother and is still trying to organise a picture of the two of us before the game.

“He said he’d be cheering Derry, but he’d be happy to see Leitrim win!

“I think it’s great that there is a family feel to it, it’s what the GAA is all about, isn’t it?”

An integral member of the Leitrim U21 team that reached the 2014 Connacht final, beating Galway in the last four, Quinn’s inter-county career hasn’t been lush with success, and had they not pulled through against New York in last year’s championship opener, he feels it would have been “completely disastrous”. There’d have been no promotions, Croke Park, or, in all likelihood, Terry Hyland as manager.

Terry Hyland Leitrim manager Terry Hyland with his players before January's clash with Mayo. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

He speaks highly of the Cavan man, of the impact he’s made and professionalism that’s been implemented. Although, having escaped The Big Apple with their blushes spared, Quinn reckons confidence began to grow, with a subsequent win over Louth and close contest with Monaghan sewing seeds of belief.

“Terry was coming into a confident camp that had a couple of results last year and had a trip out to New York that brought us closer together.

“But he’s brought great experience to it, he’s done it before, he’s brought Cavan all the way up from underage and through the divisions.

“And we wanted, at the start of the year, to play at Croke Park, we’re sick of watching Roscommon and these teams go up and play in it, but it wasn’t just to play there, it was about gaining promotion and winning the league.

“It’s difficult to put into words what it means to Leitrim. We went up a couple of weeks ago to Croke Park to take a look around and familiarise ourselves with the set-up and surroundings.

“For a small county, to get up there, it doesn’t happen too often. But it’s about making it count when we get up there and making sure, one: we get back there another day, and two: to inspire the younger generation. If you’re 10 years of age, it’s [getting to Croke Park] why you play.”

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Neil Collins with Shane Quinn Shane Quinn, Leitrim, tackles New York's Neil Collins during last year's Connacht Championship match. Source: Andy Marlin/INPHO

Indeed, the excitement he alludes to is palpable.

“The mood around the county is a breath of fresh air, but it’s what the supporters deserve, they deserve more days out like these, with weeks and months of excitement and thrills; not just winning a couple of games here and there and being beaten out the gate in the championship.

“Chatting to a few lads going up from my own club, they’ve been planning this for a couple of weeks, they’ve the train booked for half-seven in the morning. The buzz around the place, you’ve people that you’ve never really spoken to coming up, chatting to you about the game and giving you a big hug.

“It’s what the county needed because it’s been in a bad place this last couple of years and we’re lucky enough to be the team that’s raising the spirits.

“We’ve people going to games that you would never see at a club match, which is great too, the bandwagon is fairly rolling.”

Quinn is looking forward to his Croke Park bow, a feat which will silence his sisters, Emma and Talitta, whose participation at HQ in Cumann na mBunscol matches has proven to be a source of slagging over the years.

“They haven’t let me live it down…”

It also remains to be seen if Quinn and his grandfather will get their pre-match photo, although a post-game snap embellished by silverware would certainly make for a better sight.

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