Michael Quinn is a Longford football player who holds the record for the quickest start in the AFL from a former GAA player after making his AFL debut just weeks after arriving in Australia. Here he shares his experience and also has plenty of tips for those thinking of making the jump and for coaches trying to get the best out of these players.
One thing that Quinn found when starting out in AFL was that the only way is up. Despite the uncertainty around the big move, to play a game that he wasn’t completely familiar with he took solace in the fact that he could dive headfirst into it knowing that he could only improve. He says that it’s funny looking back on his thinking at the time putting the mentality down to a combination of naivety and hard work. He thinks what helped him get through this adjustment period was his competitive nature which matched well with the similar thinking of those around him at the time.
Prepare for the Pre-Season
A big shock to the system came to Quinn in the form of the five-month pre-season. “The length of the pre-season is the big thing,” says Quinn. “ A lot of Irish guys heading over struggle with it.” The 4-5 months of pre-season without any games was something completely alien to him at the time. It was one of the tougher things for him as he felt that it was such a long stretch without doing the part he loves, which is playing the game.
Finding Your Edge
Quinn admits that in his first year he spent a lot of time worrying about stats, structures and percentages but thinks that what really stands to Irish players like himself is their ability to bring something different to the game. He says that there’s a tendency to overthink certain stats when you’re starting out. The reason a lot of players move out there is that they have something special to the way they move and play and Quinn thinks that it’s important to maintain focus on this so they can stand out.
The level of specific preparation is unlike anything Quinn would have seen before. Video analysis is something that he finds is used in abundance in the AFL. While some of Quinn’s old tricks from football gave him a leg up in earlier matches, the opposition was very quick to find out what he was doing and put a stop to it. Adapting to this is what Quinn finds to be the fun part of the game though and he thinks that despite not being able to do the same tricks repeatedly, some of his old tricks could still help him get out of a jam.
Another area that Quinn found tricky to adapt to was maintaining the hunger and passion for the game. “You’re so far away and you don’t have the ability to come home in the evening to discuss the game.” Despite aids like Skype, he found that without family members around to go to games and give their thoughts afterwards, that it was tough to maintain the same passion and hunger he would have had when he was at home playing football.
When it came time for Quinn to return home he felt that he had gained a lot from the experience. Beyond personal development, he also found transferrable skills that he was able to implement to his footballing game. He found that his ball-handling abilities have improved a lot and he considers hand-passing to be dismissed a bit in football with people focussing more on the kicking element of the game.
Last Piece of Advice
Quinn’s last piece of advice doubles as a warning for players thinking of moving out to Australia. Despite overall loving his time out there, he warns that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be and he warns of how difficult it really is to have a really top-notch competitive attitude and maintain it every day. “Your time off is spent sleeping… I never took naps before that but after coming home from a big training session you just pan out on the couch, eat food and go for a nap, maybe get some more food into you and go to bed.” He also recalls some very tough sessions which left him sitting on the floor of the shower afterwards for a half an hour. Leaving him spent both mentally and physically.
About the Athlete:
Michael “Mickey” Quinn
Michael Quinn is the current Longford Senior football vice captain. Having made to move to AFL at a young age with Essendon, Quinn has returned home where he has led both his club KIlloe and County Longford to success in recent months.
Mickey is now a PE teacher in St Mels, Longford where he is helping to shape the future footballers of Longford.