Ned Quinn - Kilkenny contested 43 All-Irelands during his time, winning 25
There was never any plan, grand or otherwise. The driving forces were always love and passion, of the games, of the county.
And now, a year short of three decades of involvement in GAA activities in Kilkenny outside of his beloved Mooncoin club, Ned Quinn, has exited stage left.
Of course his invaluable experience and drive won’t be lost to the county or the GAA. He will represent Kilkenny on the Central Council, the main decision making body of the GAA, but he has finished serving as an officer at local level, for the moment at least.
Ned Quinn was given a rousing send off when he retired having completed his second term as chairman at annual County Board Convention. He could have carried on, sought a second term as secretary or whatever, but he felt that wouldn’t have been right.
Now was the time to leave.
“Maybe I could have stood for secretary again, and I might have been elected,” offered the man who never canvassed for any position he was ever elected to.
“I decided that five more years would be too long and I would be blocking other lads from coming through who had worked hard at other levels.
“It is the right time to step aside. It is better to be able to walk out rather than to be pushed or carried,” he laughed. “There was no plan at any stage. I was simply involved.
“A passion for Mooncoin and Kilkenny carried me a long, long way. I am a produce of my environment, and I took my example from those who went before he,” he added.
The road in administration - having served in a number of executive positions with Mooncoin - began for Ned Quinn when long time friend, Brendan O’Sullivan (Thomastown), surprised him by nominating him for the position of vice-chairman of Cumann na mBunscoileanna in 1987.
He was the first non-teacher, priest or Christian Brother - Fr Liam Dunne and Bro Norbert served before him - to hold the position.
He rolled on to hold positions on the South Board before his first election at County Board level was as vice-chairman in 1995. Subsequently he served as chairman twice, and also as secretary.
His latest was his third retirement. Previously he retired from the family business; then as an official with the Bank of Ireland and now the GAA in Kilkenny.
The most painful?
“Selling the family business,” he assured.
Three generations of Quinns’ had worked the business in his native Mooncoin. His grandfather P.J. Quinn, whose name was over the door when Ned was a boy, started the business when he came home from America.
The name was then changed to William B. Quinn, Ned’s father.
“I never put Quinn over the door,” Ned said when he recalled other times. “It was called the SuperValu supermarket.”
He has served Kilkenny during the richest times in hurling, plus when the redevelopment of Nowlan Park was brought to a new level and when the Dunmore training centre was acquired and developed.
There, ever offering support and encouragement was his wife, Lucy.
How times change. When the journey started the Quinns’ son, Billy and daughters Eimear and Orla were teenagers. Now six grandchildren are part of the proud Quinn clan.
Would you do it all over again, we wondered?
“I have been extremely lucky at home,” Ned said when he took up the story. “Lucy has given me such support, encouragement and freedom to do the various jobs. She is very, very involved in the clubs and is very interested in the games.
“Lots of the time in recent years she would be at the Mooncoin matches I couldn’t get to and she would ring me. Without that support you couldn’t do it.”
Support was ever present. His father Billy served as chairman in Mooncoin. He had ferocious interest in Gaelic games. He operated a hackney service at one stage and he used to carry the Kilkenny players to matches in the Forties and Fifties.
He brought his son to matches everywhere, like all fathers, Ned suggested. It was a ritual.
Whether it was Nowlan Park or Thurles, Croke Park or wherever they would be there. Then Ned began playing hurling and football with Mooncoin.
He played out-field all through under-age and then he ended up in the goal. He will still playing when he was elected club secretary for the first time, and he was also involved with under-age teams in the club. Actually he served two terms as club secretary, and also as chairman.
The Kilkenny involvement was the thing, however. No chairman anywhere can match the figures.
Kilkenny contested 15 senior hurling All-Irelands and won 11 during his reign; there were nine under-21 All-Irelands; seven minor All-Irelands and 12 intermediate All-Irelands.
“We were in 43 and we won 25,” Ned beamed.
“I remember the first day. Brian Cody was coming in as manager and I was coming in as chairman,” he continued. “We met in Brian’s school to have a chat. Our ambition was to win one All-Ireland.
“When we won that one Kilkenny hadn’t won the All-Ireland for eight years. Bingo. The rest is history, glorious history for Kilkenny.
“Without being falsely humble or anything, I was so fortunate that my time coincided with Brian Cody’s reign, a fantastic man to work with - his integrity, the absence of ego; it is all about players and clubs - and then fantastic players who seemed to roll off the conveyor belt. It would be wrong to name any of them. You could name nearly 40 top class players.
“Kilkenny enjoyed the spoils, but it all reflects well on the schools, clubs and players. The GAA in Kilkenny from day one has been about families, in every generation.
“We must never forget that. The young boys in Kilkenny have been encouraged by their families, often through very difficult times, and given opportunities through schools and clubs.”
Parents were the taxi drivers, bringing youngsters to club matches, squad sessions, training or whatever. Interested parents were the one constant.
“That is crucial to the whole thing,” Mr Quinn insisted.
“Next thing then are the clubs,” he added. “There is an army of volunteers working in clubs. In my time the most noticeable thing is the huge improvements clubs have carried out at their grounds. Kilkenny club grounds are up there with the best in the country.
“The grounds are wonderful. They are fulfilling not only a sporting need in their parish and communities, but a social need as well. They are tremendous.
“Then we have the schools. There were 550 games, of which 155 were football, played under the Kilkenny Primary Schools Board last year. Imagine the promotional value in that, 550 games hurling and football?
“Every boy who wants to play is getting the opportunity in his school.”
Then in secondary schools, the number of teachers managing and coaching in all schools was unreal, he felt. This was at a time when the Department of Education doesn’t exactly facilitate or appreciate them in terms of the work and effort they put in.
“The rewards we - the GAA - got from the investment in the different capital projects in schools has been unreal,” the former chairman continued. “If it was measured in monetary terms we got more than 100% interest on our investment.”
Between annual capital investment and equipment grants Kilkenny GAA have invested over €500,000 in second level schools in Ned Quinn’s time.
“That was money well spent,” he assured. “The schools show you their appreciation in the right way.
“They give us back players who are well coached and ready to take the next step in their careers with their clubs and county.”
He knows all about the commitment on the ground floor. There was a time when he was one of those parents who drove youngsters to games.
He got involved with Pat Duggan, the school principal in Mooncoin, and for 15 or 16 years he worked as a volunteer with under-age teams in the club while also playing and serving as secretary.
Because of his supermarket business Ned owned an Isuzu van which had a sliding door on the side. Up to 14 young lads, sitting on a plank for a seat, biscuit tins or whatever, would be packed into it and driven to play games all over the county.
“We would go as far as Galmoy without a thought,” he recalled as his eyes lit up with the joy of the memory.
“I enjoyed that more than the players did. Listening to the young lads talking, what they were and weren’t going to do during games, provided the best of entertainment.
“You would be arrested if you did that sort of thing now. Sure when you are young you don’t see danger. There was no speed limit on the roads. There were no motorways. You were all the time travelling across country.
“It was a fantastic time. You get to know lads. Pat Duggan was a fantastic man. We have Brian Tennyson now and he is carrying on the tradition. In a way I got to know Kilkenny county through my involvement with school teams.
“When would I be in Galmoy or Johnstown if I wasn’t involved with the school team? I never thought about what I was doing.
“I was doing something I wanted to do, and something I loved. I love hurling; loved being involved and loved playing when I was able to.
“Then I loved coaching young lads. You would bring them to county games everywhere to see the best players.
“There I was doing the things my father did with me. It was normal life in the GAA in Kilkenny.”
The Quinn file
Cumann na mBunscoileanna - elected chairman 1988.
South Board - served as chairman 1992 to 1994.
County Board - served as vice-chairman to John Healy 1995 to 1998; served as chairman 1999 to 2007; also served as chairman 2013 to 2017; served as secretary 2008 to 2012.
During his time in office the county contested 43 All-Ireland hurling finals, winning 25.