When Electric Ireland sat down to choose brand ambassadors for this year’s Minor Football Championship they couldn’t have picked a better advocate than Tomás ‘Mossy’ Quinn.
Of course, Mossy is remembered as the livewire corner-forward who was deadly accurate from placed balls during an era where Dublin weren’t exactly winning All-Irelands but were still stars of the show.
From the outside looking in, he looked to have it all. We’ve seen it time and time again, the left corner-forward who’s done nothing but kick points his whole life as Gaelic football comes easy to him. However, that wasn’t the case with Mossy.
A few short years before he was nailing pressure-cooker points in front of 82,000 people, he was the guy who had his hopes and dreams dashed after failing to make the Dublin Minor football side.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the St. Vincents man who was part of the Minor hurling squad but the goal was to play football for Dublin. At the turn of the 21st century, hurling didn’t figure much in the capital.
Rather than let the disappointment deter him, Quinn used it as a platform to spur him on to bigger and better things.
“I played minor hurling but I am obviously here from a football side of things,” Quinn tells Pundit Arena.
“I didn’t make it as a Minor footballer but I approached it with a view to not letting that deter me from trying to make an impact at senior so I think that was the kind of journey I was on. It was a goal of mine to play Minor football for Dublin and I didn’t get selected but I took it as a target then to try and make sure I wasn’t in the same situation again.”
Over the next couple of years, Quinn managed to break into the under-21 squad, play in an All-Ireland final before making his championship debut with the Dublin senior set-up in 2003 against Louth.
So what changed in those few short years? Quinn puts it down to playing more football and developing as he got older. However, it’s hard to ignore the clientele that the St. Vincents sharpshooter got to learn from.
After finishing at Minor level, Quinn moved up into St. Vincents’ intermediate ranks where he was coached by none other than Kevin Heffernan. Following this, Quinn eventually graduated to his club’s senior side where another two Dublin legends lay in wait in the form of Jimmy Keaveney and Gay O’Driscoll.
Between them all, they were involved in 10 successful All-Ireland winning Dublin sides.
“Kevin just loved football,” recounts Quinn.
“He was a very interesting character in how he’d see the game and how he’d pick up on things. He’d watch people and then he’d come over to you. He had a great reading of people and he’d come down and he might not say a lot but he’d come over and anytime he spoke to me he’d either have a very good idea of what I was actually thinking or what was going on.
“You’d pick up little bits and pieces from being around him, it would have been a good set-up with him and that stuck with me that kind of development.”
Once he had progressed enough, Quinn graduated to the senior set-up where his goal was to try and make St. Vincents a force once again.
“Then my first year playing senior football, Gay O’Drsicoll and Jimmy Keaveney would have been involved in the senior team so you’re coming in and being surrounded by these guys, again. I couldn’t help but learn from them and couldn’t help but pick their brains and again you’re learning from the players you are playing against or playing with so those couple of years definitely helped form me.
“I think I got a hell of a lot of desire out of that. I’m lucky enough to play with St. Vincents, our club had a lot of success historically but at that time we weren’t really competitive at senior football, we hadn’t won a championship since the 1980s.
“First, it was to get into the senior team but once I got there, straight away attention turned to what do we need to do to get competitive. I wanted to have the success that those guys had. You walk into the club and you saw the pictures on the wall and you’re kind of looking going, ‘what do we need to do to get up there?’ That certainly would have been my mindset in the first couple of years.”
Quinn learned a lot from his time working under the two Dublin legends. Keaveney was always on had to help out his fellow free-taker while O’Driscoll brought the positivity that was needed to the St. Vincents camp.
“To be honest with you, I think everything probably came kind of naturally to Jimmy in the sense that and the one thing I’ve certainly grown to learn is that what works with one person in terms of taking frees isn’t going to work with the next person so you need to develop your own style.
“You need to develop something that you are comfortable with and I think that was one of the things, Jimmy never tried to say; ‘well this is how I did it’, it was more, ‘when you’re doing it here’s a little tweak I might have worked at’. That was something that stuck with me for a long time.
“I think Gay O’Driscoll had a really positive mindset in terms of how to look at the game, in terms of playing the game and they were just at the time, they were good characters for me to be around. It definitely stood to me.”
Their tutelage most definitely stood to Quinn as he became a mainstay in a Dublin side that had Croke Park rocking throughout the noughties. While that side never won an All-Ireland they played a brand of football that fans flocked to.
His run in the Dublin side lasted until 2012 when he bowed out with a highly-coveted Celtic Cross that many of those men from that 2002 under-21 team weren’t lucky enough to achieve.
Following his retirement from the inter-county game, Quinn threw his lot back in with St. Vincents where he got to fulfil that very goal he had set himself way back when he started out under Heffernan, Keaveney and O’Driscoll.
He guided the Marino club to the promised land once more winning four Leinster club titles and two All-Ireland club titles. It’s amazing how life works.