Tipperary forward Michael Quinlivan insists that he has no regrets about turning down the chance to pursue a professional soccer career.
The Clonmel Commercials ace had a big decision to make in early 2011 as Waterford United put a contract offer on the table.
But Quinlivan turned it down to link up with Tipperary’s minor footballers – and finished the season as an All-Ireland medallist.
Quinlivan was one of Tipp’s stand-out performers that year and in the final against Dublin, he banged home a nerveless penalty at the Hill 16 End. The following year, he was making his senior championship debut against Kerry, scoring seven points.
Not much fazes Dublin-based Quinlivan, a trainee accountant with PwC.
He explains: “I’ve been living in Dublin for the last two years. I live with Alan Campbell but driving down through traffic out of Dublin two nights a week isn’t the easiest.” His Tipp teammates, who are also based in the capital, including Campbell and Donal Lynch, usually travel down to training in Thurles by train, and Quinlivan will ferry them back later in the evening.
“Sometimes I might have one or two on the way down,” Quinlivan says.
“Anytime you have someone in the car, it makes it a little bit easier.”
When he was a teenager, soccer was Quinlivan’s number one sport.
He lined out with the local Clonmel Town club and when he was just 12, pulled on the green shirt of the Republic of Ireland. The previous year’s team featured current senior internationals Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick but there was a serious crop from Clonmel knocking around at that time too.
Two of Quinlivan’s mates, Greg Henry and Colman Kennedy, played in that 2011 minor decider and are now in the US on soccer scholarships. Hurling was never big on Quinlivan’s radar but he did play the small ball code to U16 level.
He smiles: “I was more useful with my hand than the hurley.
“I’d stand inside, catch it and give it to somebody who could hit it. But it was never for me, I was big into the soccer and that was number one until I was 18.
“Waterford offered me the chance to play League of Ireland but that same year we were playing minor with Tipp. I didn’t think I was ready for that (LOI) level at 18 and football has taken over since.”
Quinlivan packed in soccer completely last year to focus on his Gaelic Football commitments and it’s been a remarkable few months since.
Commercials won the county title and then became the first club from Tipperary to land a Munster crown. He linked up with the Tipp seniors after that and scored one of the first half goals as the Premier County stunned Cork in the provincial semi-final.
But Quinlivan harbours regrets from the Munster final defeat against Kerry, insisting that Tipp could have done better.
He reveals: “We were a bit down after the Kerry game but things have picked up again. The thing that rankled was that we didn’t do ourselves justice. Kerry had their homework done on targeting some of our bigger players and they put the shackles on a few of our guys.
“Their forwards worked really, really hard but we learned a lot from that game. Anytime you lose, you learn and at least we have another chance. If that was the end of the year, you’d be kicking yourself for another nine months.”
Opportunity knocks for Tipperary this evening when they tackle Derry at Kingspan Breffni Park – with an All-Ireland quarter-final place on offer for the winners. And Quinlivan agrees with captain Peter Acheson’s view that victory is vital for the long-term progression of football in the county.
“Definitely,” he says. “Maybe in years gone by people didn’t see playing football as a realistic option. If you were given the dual option, hurling was number one but we’ve gained more recognition in the last while. It’s our third time in the last 12 in five years and the next step is to reach a quarter-final. We wanted to reach a Munster final this year, we achieved that, but this is arguably a bigger game than the Munster final for the long-term future.”
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