fair balls

'We were shocked he didn’t make it' - Ex-Munster man Quinlan shines for Con

The 22-year-old out-half was part of the province’s academy for a year.

YOU MAY REMEMBER Tomás Quinlan from his match-winning penalty for the Ireland U20s against Argentina at the 2015 Junior World Championship.

With the last action of the game and Ireland trailing 16-15, Quinlan took on a truly difficult penalty shot at goal from wide on the right. And he nailed it.

quinlan kick TG4 TG4

“Fair balls to ya boy! Well done Tomás Quinlan,” tweeted Ronan O’Gara, a fellow Cork and Munster man who knows more than most about holding his nerve from the tee with the pressure on.

Quinlan joined Munster’s full academy after that tournament, in which he featured four times having been a late injury call-up, and his future with the province looked very bright.

But within a year, the former Christians Brothers College student had been released, Munster opting to look elsewhere for out-half potential.

Still only 22, Quinlan has been shining with Cork Constitution again this season, guiding them into the final of Ulster Bank League Division 1A for the second year in a row and kicking eight points in last weekend’s Bateman Cup success, a fifth consecutive success in that competition for the club.

Quinlan will be pivotal to Con’s chances of wrestling the UBL title from Clontarf in Sunday’s decider at the Aviva [KO 2.30pm] and his continuing good form only makes his team-mates wonder all the more how Munster let him go.

“It was definitely a shock,” says Cork Con prop Gavin Duffy. “He has it all, with the skills and the kicking and he is a great defensive player as well. He wouldn’t be a slight out-half either.

“He is well able to stand up for himself and give a good account for himself in defence, so we were all kind of shocked that he didn’t make it. We were only expecting him to be in Con for one or two years but it just didn’t work out for him for whatever reason.”

Tomas Quinlan kicks a conversion Quinlan is a key man for Cork Con. Bryan Keane / INPHO Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

Many others in the club game in Munster and further afield share that surprise, particularly with Quinlan’s form remaining so consistently strong.

His left-footed place-kicking has been hugely reliable once again this season, with the IRFU’s stats having him down for 180 points in the league during the current campaign, while he has run the Con attack and chipped in willingly in defence.

An Ireland international at U19 level, as well as a Munster player right up to the ‘A’ team, Quinlan is a fine example of the playing quality that will be on show this Sunday in Dublin.

“We have all seen him grow,” says Duffy. “He came into us after secondary school and he has become a real leader now. Everyone listens to him.

“He kind of bosses things and he has a savage boot. He has become a really good player for us.”

Of course, Cork Con have been the launchpad for several promising Munster youngsters in the recent past, with Darren Sweetnam featuring at fullback in last season’s final defeat to Clontarf.

No one in the club has been surprised to see the Dunmanway flyer going on to bigger things.

Darren Sweetnam with Joey Carbery Sweetnam looks to tackle Clontarf's Joey Carbery last season. Colm O'Neill / INPHO Colm O'Neill / INPHO / INPHO

“He is a class player,” says Duffy. “He was after playing inter-county hurling with Cork so he was used to high-level sport. Not surprised at all. We are delighted to see him go so well with Munster.”

And Duffy is convinced that there are more Con players with the talent to break through into the professional game in the coming years, particularly with a handful of them in the Munster academy at present.

“You’ve got the likes of Evan Mintern, Rory Burke, Liam O’Connor, Ned Hodson and all of them.

“You’ll see at the weekend that they are all fantastic players and I would have no fear of them going at it for a professional team like Munster or whoever.”

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