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A Clonoulty-Rossmore and Tipperary star, Dillon Quirke kept on achieving in his hurling career

The 24-year-old passed away suddenly last night.

dillon-quirke Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

AS A GAELIC Games image, there is a classic familiarity to it – an autumnal setting, a match of major significance and the sheer joy amongst those that have come out the right side of the result.

County senior final day.

In the picture from October 2018 there are seven Clonoulty-Rossmore players featured. The final whistle has just sounded and the reactions are varied, some embracing, others with hands raised to the sky, one has sank to his knees likely in disbelief.

The game that preceded it had secured their club the title of Tipperary senior hurling champions for only the fourth time. It marked the end of a 21-year wait for that triumph, a couple of final losses in the interim forgotten about as that bunch of players embraced the feeling of being crowned champions.

clonoulty-rossmores-players-celebrate-at-the-end-of-the-game Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

Like any club winning a final in any county, there were different components that contributed to the outcome, yet there is one that generally tends to be prominent.

The bright young star that is announced on a big stage.

For the Clonoulty-Rossmore class of 2018, it felt like that label belonged to Dillon Quirke.

He had turned 20 the previous February, still eligible to hurl at U21 level the following season, young enough not to have too much pressure heaped upon him.

And yet it was a county final where he stepped up from the throw-in. The first half saw him slot two exquisite sideline cuts over the bar. The second half, when the match became frantic and tense, saw him win the frees in the finale that yielded the points which nudged Clonoulty-Rossmore over the finish line.

dillon-quirke-takes-a-sideline Dillon Quirke taking a sideline in the 2018 Tipperary senior final. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

In Semple Stadium, their centre-forward stood out for his leadership, in keeping with his performances throughout that campaign.

Last night, just under four years later, he was again present at the same venue playing in club championship for Clonoulty-Rossmore, still a leader and now with the added status of a Tipperary senior to his name.

Shortly before half-time the 24-year-old became ill on the pitch and shockingly passed away later. An incomprehensible tragedy.

For those of us that spend our days observing matches at various age levels, he was a player whose hurling progress required tracking. He ticked different boxes as he emerged as a youngster hurling in a county where high standards are set. In 2015 he was corner-back on a winning Thurles CBS team in the final of the Dr Harty Cup, the prestigious schools hurling competition in Munster hurling.

That same year he won a Munster minor medal in Tipperary colours, by 2016 he had added Munster and All-Ireland honours to his minor record, finishing up in style in that grade by coming on as a substitute in Croke Park as Tipperary collected a national title.

conor-stakelum-and-dillon-quirke Dillon Quirke (right) celebrates Tipperary's 2016 minor win with team-mate Conor Stakelum. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Moving through the age groups requires development, by 2018 Quirke was no longer sitting on the bench at the start watching on. He had fastened down a spot at left half-back for the Tipperary U21s, they were defeated in the Munster final against Cork but turned the tables in a memorable win for the county in the All-Ireland decider.

That was two months before Quirke won a senior medal with his club, seamlessly switching from defence to attack in a show of his versatility, and the year would conclude with a club U21 victory to round off a season of success.

There was a neat symmetry to his achievements in 2018 with the Tipperary U21s and the Clonoulty-Rossmore senior side. He emulated his father Dan who won those two same medals as a hurler in 1989, scoring 3-2 for the Premier in the All-Ireland decider against Offaly.

In December 2018, The42 sat down with Timmy Hammersley, a stalwart of the Clonoulty-Rossmore forward line and a player with Tipperary experience at the highest level, for a reflection of the hurling year.

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john-devane-celebrates-with-his-players Clonoulty-Rossmore celebrations after the 2018 Tipperary county senior final. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

He captured the meaning of a reaching such sporting heights for their local community.

“John Devane (club manager), the one thing he said all year was people only want to see you doing your best and just want to see you working hard for each other and playing well.

“I just wanted to play well for my people. You’re talking about very humble rural people and to embrace it with them was very special.

“They don’t have high expectations in life and to make humble people happy was a nice thing.”

You can imagine that the exploits of Dillon Quirke made those humble people happy

His Tipperary senior debut arriving in a league game against Limerick in January 2020, his first senior championship start arriving against Waterford in April 2022. Flying the flag for Clonoulty-Rossmore and continuing a rich tradition established previously by club-mates like Declan Ryan, Joe Hayes and John Kennedy around 1989 and 1991, then maintained by Devane, John O’Keeffe and Hammersley, before being carried on by Quirke this summer in Tipperary colours.

Our view is removed and on the outside, we simply knew Dillon Quirke as a hurler to watch, a player whose skills were to be enjoyed as he displayed them.

For those who knew him best, this is a sad and tragic time. The team-mates who shared dressing-rooms and training pitches with him on countless occasions for Tipperary teams and Clonoulty-Rossmore sides.

And for his family at a time of incalculable grief, you can only hope there may be some small source of comfort from the impression his hurling performances made and the pride that can be taken in the considerable list of achievements he accumulated on the pitch.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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