The death occurred on Monday of former Galwegians captain and coach Billy Quinn after a long and brave battle against illness. A native of Renmore, Billy was a very talented sportsman whose earlier interests included the GAA and motorsport, but it was the game of rugby union which was his first love and in which he excelled as a centre for both Connacht and his beloved Galwegians RFC. Billy will go down in history as one of the few players to have played rugby over four decades from the 60’s through to the 90’s, quite some achievement even in the old amateur days.
Billy will be mourned not just by his club colleagues, but also by just about everyone who came in contact with him. This includes not least his many former adversaries on the playing pitch, a great many of whom formed such great and lasting friendships with Billy through the game of rugby. While his death at the age of 65 is most untimely, it is perhaps fitting that his passing comes in the week between two Galwegians matches against Ballymena and Corinthians, both of which fixtures were particularly close to his heart. Only a few months ago he travelled to Ballymena for the Memorial service for one of his great friends Davy Smyth. Billy starred in very many annual Glynn Cup matches over the years against the ”oul’ enemy”, but never allowed on-the-field rivalry interfere with the equally important social aspects to this wonderful local derby.
Billy first cut his teeth at coaching at Under 20 level in ‘Wegians and went on to develop an all-conquering team in the mid-eighties, winning back to back Connacht League and Cup Doubles. Having finally hung up his boots, he then took up the challenge of coaching Our Lady’s Boys Club in the early 1990’s before returning to his spiritual home in Galwegians, where he coached the Senior team in the 1994-95 All-Ireland League season, in partnership with a certain Warren Gatland.
Billy remained a central figure in the club over the years both in a formal and informal capacity. An electrical contractor by trade who spent the majority of his working life in Thermo King, the “Quinn Electrical Christmas Social” has become one of the highlights of the Galwegians social calendar in recent years. Many are the ideas which germinated in Billy’s fertile brain for the betterment of the Club, some of which were acted upon and others too confusing for anyone to understand! Arguably, however, Billy’s proudest achievement since his playing retirement was organising the Great Galwegians Gathering in 2012, a year before the Government decided to organise theirs! Over 600 attended a reception in the Radisson Hotel to celebrate the 90th Centenary of the club, where they heard President Michael D. Higgins single out Billy for being the inspiration behind the event.
He is survived by his mother Dympna, wife Catherine, daughters Ruth and Julianne, sister Carrie, brother Johnny and extended family and friends. He will be sorely missed by one and all. The moving tributes paid to Billy at his funeral mass on Thursday by his daughter Julianne, and at the reception afterwards by his long-time friend and club colleague Paddy O’Reilly, will live long in the memory of those who were privileged to be present. We may never see his like again, and may he truly rest in peace.
Carl Blake and Peter Crowley