OUR older supporters will be saddened to learn of the death in Dublin of former Roughyeds winger Sean Quinlan, who was part of the Watersheddings scene in the boom days of the late 1950s. We thank his son, Pearse, for informing us of his father’s passing just a few days after his 83rd birthday.
Sean Quinlan is second from the left holding a programme. Also seated Oldham coach Griff Jenkins.
A product of the well-known Blackrock College in Dublin, Quinlan was a big-name signing for the Roughyeds. He had played four times for Ireland in Rugby Union and was generally thought to be one of that code’s best and fastest wingers.
Top Rugby League clubs tracked him, but Oldham got their man . . . and, despite his cruel luck with injuries, the young Irishman was a popular member of the squad at a time when wingers were the sport’s pin-up boys, among them the Roughyeds trio of John Etty, Dick Cracknell and Ike Southward.
Griff Jenkins was coach and Oldham were riding high, having won the Lancashire Cup in 1956, 57 and 58 and the League Championship in 1957.
Quinlan had joined a club that was famed for its brand of open, attacking rugby, but his League ambitions were dashed by a run of knee injuries in an Oldham career that spanned three seasons.
He was restricted to 11 first-team games — eight of them outside that prince of centres Alan Davies and the other three partnered by Vinny Nestor.
He made his debut on November 22, 1958 in a 13-12 League Championship win against Leeds at Watersheddings and then played in two more games over Christmas, scoring the first of his four tries for the club in a 14-14 draw at Hunslet.
A serious knee injury at Parkside, in only his third first-team game, kept him out until the following season whereupon he scored his second try in the first game, a 27-12 home win against Leeds. A recurrence of the injury kept him out for another three weeks, but he returned to action in a 43-9 win against Hunslet at Watersheddings — and promptly scored two more tries.
In his next game against Warrington he suffered damage to his other knee – an injury that sidelined him again until the start of the 60-61 season.
After corrective surgery, he played in the first five games of that season against top teams such as St Helens, Warrington, Leeds, Wigan and Leigh, but then one of his knees failed again.
Brian Walker of the Oldham RL Heritage Trust, writing in his book ‘Roughyeds — The Story’, said of Quinlan: “It would have been easy for him (at that stage) to pack his bags and return home to Ireland, but he didn’t. He persevered with knee-strengthening exercises, but eventually had to undergo a second operation which was again unsuccessful. Only then did he throw in the towel.”
The sincere condolences of chairman Chris Hamilton, head coach Scott Naylor, staff, players and supporters young and old at the present-day Oldham club, together with those of the Oldham RL Heritage Trust, are sent across the Irish Sea to the Quinlan family.
Sean Quinlan playing for Ireland RU.