Classy Quinlivan plays with a smile on his face

Tipperary is a county where the small ball is the main priority they are among hurling royalty sitting third in the roll of honour with 28 all Ireland titles but there is a core group of die hard football people in the premier county who have been working hard for a long time to promote the big ball and we have seen the result of all that hard work in recent times. Michael talks about his backround in soccer and who inspired him to play football for Tipperary.

“soccer was always number one for me until I got to about minor then I started to focus on Gaelic football most lads from Clonmel would be soccer predominantly with a bit of football mixed in then you get the odd few people who would be more hulring than soccer but Clonmel would be a big soccer town so that’s what most of us would have played on the way up certainly a good few of us playing with Tipp now all came off soccer team

I can remember going to the 2002 Munster final i was only 9 and seeing how much of an occasion it was and Declan Browne was brilliant he would have been one i definitely looked up to and then within my own club I would have gone to the county final in 2002 and the likes of Philly Ryan and Fergal O’callaghan would have started me along the way apart from that then a lot of players you would have seen on tv I always liked watching benny coulter I loved how direct he was”

In 2011 the signs were starting to show Tipperary minors beat cork and came from 10 points behind to claim victory over Kerry in the Munster championship. They then went on to win their second ever minor all Ireland coming from 5 points down to beat Dublin in the final, that stuff doesn’t happen by accident the talent was coming.

“A huge amount of work went in underage it was our fourth year together with most of that team we started at under 14 with Joe Hannigan and a few more it was probably the start of a vision of how can we start to produce more players for senior. the Kerry game was mad we came back from 10 points down at half time and coming on from that you gain massive confidence and that’s how things started to roll , it’s nice when you look around and you see a lot of the players that you would have played against at that level who are now stars at inter county level “

The spearhead of their attack was a young man called Michael Quinlivan he stood over a penalty that day into hill 16 against the dubs he blocked out the jeering from the hill and dispatched it with ice in his veins a real show of mettle for an 18 year old but this was only the tip of the iceberg of what was to come. It was the first sign we got that this man would be the fulcrum of Tipperarys attack for the future.

( penalty from 2:30)

“I was getting a lot of stick to be honest and I don’t have much else when I’m taking penalties only to put the ball down and hit it as hard as I can and try and get a bit of direction on it when I put it was down I was just thinking keep my eye on the back of it and hit it as hard as I could “

He caught the eye of AFL scouts but after a trial in Dublin he quickly realised it wasn’t for him and went on to make his championship debut for the Tipperary senior team in 2012 against Kerry they were beaten 0-16 to 0-10 he scored seven points that day not bad for a kid just out of minor. Quinlivan has helped his club Clonmel commercials to five senior championship titles and in 2015 they won their first Munster club title in their history beating Cork giants Nemo Rangers by 1 point in the final and of course it was that man who produced the magic deep into injury time to create history for his club.

“I don’t think i’ll have a day like that ever again to be honest , we were in four or five Munster finals going back the years it was always the holy grail for us , if you are lucky enough to win Tipperary it’s important that we go on and represent ourselves well it was a terrible day in mallow the weather was shocking. after the goal Jason Lonergan started hugging me in the middle of the field while the game was still going on but thankfully we got a foul high up the pitch then I don’t remember much after that only my dad coming through a sea of people i’d say he must have thrown about 15 people out of the way but if I could ever go back to one or two days after a victory it would definitely be that one because you are with the lads you were playing football with since you were six and who you grew up with it was an incredible feeling we really enjoyed it , in the end we probably should have kicked on in an all ireland semi final but hopefully we might be able to do that in the coming years.”  

in 2016 Tipperary came through the qualifiers to meet Galway in the all Ireland quarter final the tribesmen were heavy favourites but Tipperary and Quinlivan never read the script he produced a man of the match display scoring 1-4 and sending Tipp through to face Mayo in an all Ireland semi final where they were competitive for long spells but just came up short in the end. He was rewarded for his brilliant performances that year by collecting an all star in the full forward position becoming Tipperarys second ever football all star along with Declan Browne

“i was disappointed really I thought we deserved maybe one or two more considering the year we had and how historic it was getting to an all ireland semi final so it was bitter sweet because it was a proud moment for myself but i would have liked to have been standing up there with a few other Tipp lads “

Michael Quinlivan plays the game like we all should with a smile on his face. He’s a mercurial talent when you are watching Tipperary and he gets on the ball you sit up expecting something to happen.He plays with freedom and abandon its like he’s just in his back garden having fun with his friends ,he is a ruthless finisher and is never satisfied with a point,  when he retires his highlight reel will be something like Matt le Tissier’s of Southampton , his outrageous skill set allows him to score all types of goals he can run half the field and score he can blast them to the roof of the net he can place them low and he can even flick the odd one in.

you know there’s something special about a player when the commentator says “danger here” when he gets possession.

“ some days things just flow for you and some days they don’t i’ve had a lot of days where i just couldn’t get into the game at all maybe it’s the style that sometimes i’m inside other times i’m out the field that has an impact on that it’s nothing that i worked on it’s just always how i tried to play , with a smile on my face and enjoy myself “

In 2017 tipperary faced Armagh in the last round of the league needing a win to clinch promotion to division 2. They were two points down in injury time before their Clonmel star produced yet another last gasp goal completing his hat-trick on the day to send Tipperary up to division two. It was the Gaa’s version of Aguerooooooooooo.

“ it was mad i still don’t know how armagh let us get up the field i remember Bill Maher and Josh Keane broke through and the ball landed in my path i didn’t have much time to think about it i just hit it , we had promotion in our hands the week before against Louth and let it slip with a really poor performance in Thurles so at least in maybe made up for that and we took great heart from it because Armagh are a very good team and very hard to play against “

before the start of the 2020 season Quinlivan informed manager David Power that he would be taking a year out to travel a massive blow to the premier county. But a global pandemic interfered with his traveling plans so once games resumed he was back in the squad.

“to be honest going traveling was on my mind for a long time it wasn’t a reaction to how football was going or anything like that it was more of a decision of something I wanted to do during my life , i was in Thailand at the end of march myself and my girlfriend realised that we would have to come home originally we thought it would only be for a month or six weeks and that we could continue but it became fairly clear that we couldn’t go back. when i originally had the chat with david about being away for 2020 he said look you don’t know what might happen during the year the door will always be open and thankfully he rang me at the start of the summer asking would I be interested in going back in and I was ready to take the hand off him and to be honest it’s turned out really really well considering what’s happened with the club and now Tipperary “

 Tipperary were sitting one place above the relegation zone in division 3 they produced back to back wins over Offaly and Leitrim to secure their division 3 status for next season. They beat Clare in the championship before narrowly overcoming limerick in extra time as Conor Sweeneys wonder score saved them at the end of normal time.

“we kind of just got on a bit of a roll the Offaly game was a very big game for us I think we needed that victory before going up to Leitrim it gave us a bit of heart we lost Stephen O’brien to injury so that made it a more difficult journey up i think winning is contagious you can get on a roll I don’t know when the last time we won five games on the bounce was probably four or five years ago so hopefully we can keep it going and see where it takes us “

That left them in a Munster final against cork. 100 years on from when Tipperary player Michael Hogan was shot playing against Dublin in Croke park they had their special green and white jerseys on it was written in the stars.

it can be difficult we tried our best during the week just to focus on our jobs but you do realise it was a much bigger occasion than just a football match it was a remembrance of what’s go on before I think everyone is a bit more wise to what happened and how big of an occasion it was it shaped the country that we are living in today so i’m glad that we were able to commemorate the people of bloody Sunday by putting in a performance that’s ultimately the best way to do it 

 Quinlivan was at it again doing what he does best the RTE cameras caught a shot of him with a big smile on his face after kicking one of his four brilliant points

“to be honest I was laughing at one of my team mates I just can’t take him seriously I wouldn’t be one for getting bogged down on what’s happening during a game anyway I just take it as it comes and enjoy myself because you never know when your last game might be i spent a lot of time on the sideline the last couple of years so even just to be back out there with the lads is brilliant “

85 years on from their last Munster final victory this is a special bunch of players and they will have inspired the next generation of tipp footballers there will be young lads in clubs and schools picking up a football and pretending to be Michael Quinlivan , Conor Sweeney , Robbie Kiely and Brian fox

“it’s a bit of a monkey off our back we didn’t want to let another generation slip past where we didn’t get that victory it’s more of a pressure off situation now we didn’t want it to get to 100 years or whatever it might have been and hopefully a victory like that will do a lot for how football is viewed and how kids want to go and play football for Tipperary “

This weekend they will face mayo in the all Ireland semi final a repeat of 2016 but they are better placed going into this one they are further down the line and more experienced and when you have a player like Michael Quinlivan in your team you always have a chance.

Published by cianj13

ferbane and offaly footballer sports journalist email - cianjohnson1300@gmail.com

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