Donegal championship final is new ground for former Derry City and Finn Harps star Quigg!

​Picture the scene: The great and the good of Donegal GAA are gathered for the traditional pre-championship finals press day. The Junior 'A' final has pitted favourites Na Rossa against underdogs Moville. Managing the Lettermacaward club is All Ireland winner, former senior county manager and all round Donegal legend Declan Bonner who is fielding questions on his club's chances when he gets a tap on the shoulder from a member of the opposition camp.
Moville GAA coach John Quigg. (Photo: Des Loughery/Pacemaker Press)Moville GAA coach John Quigg. (Photo: Des Loughery/Pacemaker Press)
Moville GAA coach John Quigg. (Photo: Des Loughery/Pacemaker Press)

"Yes, Declan, great to see a couple of us soccer heads among this lot, isn't it!"

Bonner laughs at loud at the cheek of it. He knows the source well but you'd imagine even he can't quite get his head round how, or why, his old friend is involved in a Donegal championship final.

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John Quigg has no GAA background. The straight-talking former Derry City, Finn Harps and Institute player and coach barely remembers playing it during his school days at St. Columb's College. And yet this Saturday, alongside Pat McLaughlin, 'Quiggy' will lead Moville out in O'Donnell Park to face Na Rossa, all the while plotting the downfall of his old Harps team-mate Bonner.

"It's a bit surreal and to make it even more surreal, it's Declan's team we're playing!" smiled Quigg about the twist of fate that has him one bib away from being bainisteoir!

"I played with Declan in 1991 at Harps and then he went on to win an All Ireland in '92, probably thanks to me keeping him right at football!

"I was up at the pre-championship press night the other day, all the GAA heads in Donegal were there because it included the senior finalists and all, but I walked up to him, shook his hand and we had a good laugh. We had a decent side at Harps in those days under Charlie McKeever. We were playing against the likes of Derry, Rovers and the rest but Declan was obviously more GAA than soccer. He went on to achieve superb things with Donegal.

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"But when he saw me at the press night he couldn't help but laugh. He was shaking his head and thinking; 'What in under God's are you doing down here?'"

Probably only just ousted at the top of 2023's 'most unlikely GAA appointments' by Mickey Harte's move to Derry, Quigg's switch of codes came about thanks to his long time collaborator, Pat McLaughlin and it has proved fruitful for both parties.

"When I left Derry City I was down in Greencastle for two or three years with Pat (McLaughlin)," explains Quigg, "We ended up winning the Inishowen League and a couple of cups. Hugh Harkin asked me to go back into Derry so I left and Pat packed in the football too.

"But then the Gaelic club in Moville asked Pat would he take it on because most of the players are dual sportsmen. Most play the two and I would know them all from my time with Greencastle, so out of the blue Pat rang and asked, 'Do you fancy a bit of Gaelic coaching?'

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"I thought he was winding me up. I think I might have played Gaelic at school and that was about it but Pat kept on and, in fairness, with the coaching, there are a lot of similarities. There's a ball and there's movement and a lot of the ideas are the same. Don't get me wrong, there's the tactical side but Pat had plenty of GAA in him and I thought, 'You know what, I'll go and give it a lash!'

"We went down to see how it went in the league; we had 10 league games and started off like a house on fire, everyone was buzzing. Then we lost a couple and heads dropped a bit but all through the league everyone had been saying, 'The championship is coming. We'll get everybody out for the Championship'. And they did. It's spiralled from there but I've really enjoyed it."

A Moville team including former Institute players Dylan and Sean Doherty and Jamie McCormack, as well as a littering of players from his days at Greencastle FC, held plenty of familiar faces for Quigg who has been fascinated by the tactical side of Gaelic Games.

"Look, fitness is fitness and coaching is caching," he explains, "We get the ball moving because not matter what the sport, the ball moves quicker than any player can and if you can get it going then you are in with a chance.

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"I went down to St. Eunan's v Naomh Conaill recently there because I wanted to see the standard of a senior game and you notice a lot of teams playing the same way with men behind the ball. I'm still getting my head round the 'everyone behind the ball' mentality you see at times.

"Other things like getting to ball to a designated 'shooter' was a bit of an eye opener. Some teams don't want certain players shooting even if they are in a good position. It's all very interesting stuff."

Having beaten Muff in a dramatic penalty shoot-out to reach the final, Quigg admits Moville go into the final as underdogs against a Na Rossa team who have already beaten them this season, but he's hoping the 'championship fever' which has gripped the parish will help the players find another gear on Saturday.

"I'm really looking forward to it. There'll be a big crowd and it will be a great day for the whole parish of Moville and Greencastle. If we win it, they'll party for a week!

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"It's a different mentality with the GAA. It's all about the parish. Everything is parish orientated. You want to see last night at the club. We were training and the Under 13s, 15s and 17s were all there, all buzzing about with flags and putting bunting up and stuff, it was great."

So, with a championship final spot secured after only nine months involvement in the GAA, has Mickey Harte any call to be worried?

"I'd say he's grand!" laughs Quigg, "But I've really enjoyed it. I love coaching and this has been a great experience. The semi-final was unbelievable so we'll get ready and see where Saturday takes us."

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