By Michael McMullan
ONE glance at Tom Quinn’s list of achievements tells you the stature of the man in footballing circles.
Tom passed away recently and will go down as one of the all-time Bellaghy and Derry greats.
With St Columb’s Derry, he won a Hogan Cup in 1965. A minor All-Ireland title followed in the summer. Three years later, he was an u-21 All-Ireland champion.
Derry’s stock was on the rise and they knocked on the door of All-Ireland senior dreamland in the 1970s, Tom was part of their three Ulster winning teams, including the back-to-back wins in 1975 and ’76.
“One of the great full-backs of Gaelic football and a rock at the heart of the Oakleaf defence for over a decade,” Derry GAA commented in tribute.
Quinn picked up seven senior titles in the blue of Bellaghy – a third of their haul – and played on their All-Ireland winning team of 1972.
In the final, a win over UCC, he was marked by Ireland rugby star Moss Keane.
With East Kerry failing to return the trophy from the year before, Bellaghy, the new champions, left Croke Park empty handed.
Last year, to mark the 50th anniversary of their finest hour, the club arranged a day at Headquarters and they got to lift the cup. There was also special homecoming.
At a celebratory dinner, captain Laurence Diamond described Quinn as “A prince of full backs”, even though his versatility saw him deployed as a converted full-forward in Bellaghy’s All-Ireland march.
In the upcoming book, Derry: Game of my Life, Diamond looks into the All-Ireland win as his most iconic moment.
“One memory was Tom Quinn’s tussle with Mossie Keane that day, with Mossie going on to be an international rugby player,” Diamond said of their win over UCC.
“One could say that it was Tom’s speed that won out against Mossie’s enthusiasm.”
When reciting their memories for the book, the Derry players from that era would always bring up Tom’s name.
“Bellaghy GAC are saddened to share news of the passing of former player Tom Quinn,” read a statement from the club.
“We extend our sympathies to Tom’s wife Kathleen, son Francis, and wider Quinn circle. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.”
Tom was a teacher and spent many days in St Paul’s Kilrea where he was much loved by both pupils and staff.
The many comments posted on social media, many coming from former pupil and colleagues, are a testament to the legacy he left behind.
Laurence Diamond was around as many corners as anybody with him, from a friendship across their football and teaching days.
“I have so many memories of Tom,” he said. “Tom would have fitted very well into today’s style.
“I am not sure he would’ve agreed with it, but with his size, athleticism and speed, he would’ve been a serious handful for any unfortunate opponent sent out to shadow him.”
Tom played at full-back in the days when part of the remit was to take the kick-outs and Diamond remembers Quinn as the first person in the GAA to use a tee.
The memory comes from the 1979 decider with Magherafelt and an invention “expertly crafted” by Paddy C Bradley.
“It was painted green to blend in with the grass,” Diamond said.
Kathleen, Francis and the Quinn family circle will miss Tom dearly. His many friends will too.
Where and when his name is mentioned, his spirit will live on.