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07th Feb 2019

Louise Quinn: I go into schools thinking I can make a difference here

Jack O'Toole

I remember going to a JD Sports meet and greet with Katie Taylor last year.

Taylor was in Dundrum for a quick interview with one of her primary sponsors JD Sports and I wanted to get a sense of who Katie Taylor’s fans were and so I watched as dozens of young girls went up to the boxing champion looking for a picture, a handshake and to see if they could get their boxing gloves signed by the Olympic gold medalist.

Taylor obliged with the grace and class that you’d expect of her but kids idolise those that they believe they can one day emulate and it was no different for Republic of Ireland and Arsenal defender Louise Quinn.

She remembers Niall Quinn attending a presentation when she was younger but as she grew older her role models verged to those that became more realistic idols for her; Emma Byrne, Yvonne Tracey, Ciara Grant.

Idols became rivals, to borrow a line from the 21st century American poet Rick Ross, but the seed was planted and her development blossomed thereafter.

“I think before I didn’t realise the impact that I could have but after seeing it and being part of it more I consciously think ‘I can make a difference here’,” said Quinn.

“You can just help someone build their confidence and if you play in the same position or if you can have something in common with the kids you can help inspire.

“Part of the 20×20 campaign I’d love to get as many girls in the Irish team involved as I can, especially in their local areas, it’s just about putting yourself out there.

“I was very fortunate to be in the senior team from around 17 but I was really in and out from then but it was from those girls that I realised that it was possible to be professional.

“When I was first in the Irish setup from the age of 14 I would have known of Emma Byrne, Yvonne Tracey, Ciara Grant, but to actually then meet them, watch them play and then play with them was crazy.

“Then Fiona O’Sullivan helped get an agent and put an idea into my head that if I wanted to play abroad that I definitely could.”

Quinn is part of an Arsenal team that is currently one point off league leaders Manchester City at the top of the FA Women’s Super League Table but before her move to England she had spent three years with Eskilstuna United DFF in Sweden.

It was her first move abroad after previous stints with Peamount United and UCD and it was as much of a cultural eye opener as much as anything she encountered from a football perspective.

“In Sweden we didn’t even think too much outside of the box, it was just things like visiting schools and taking over like a PE class,” added Quinn.

“I think that could be like a really positive thing in Ireland as well with PE becoming a subject in secondary schools and there’s a whole stigma around it that kids aren’t getting enough sport and PE in primary schools so if you were to bring in some role models from the Irish team, it really is what makes a difference.

“For me, I feel like things like that would have stuck in my head. Meeting these people that play for Ireland, or Arsenal, or Brighton, it really can make a difference. We just got really involved in our community. I was part of things like judging a bake-off, you were there and you made yourself available and you wanted to be part of the community.

“Even the fans that came along there were always some familiar faces in the crowd which is so important. With small resources it was just manpower and to give your time and that was as important as anything.

“We had things like player cards, which was great, and you could collect them and get them signed which helped with things like merchandise and we were just doing everything we could.

“It’s hard to get a main sponsor that can give everything to a club but in Eskilstuna we had like over 100 sponsors that would give anything they could, even if it was just coffee or a few boxes of chocolate to keep the shop going. It was all small donations but it was brilliant.”

Quinn, and fellow international Katie McCabe, will play for Arsenal against Manchester United in their Continental Cup semi-final tonight and she thinks that the growth of the Women’s Super League can increasingly become a viable home for Irish players looking to make the jump abroad.

“We’re adding more people to the league,” noted Quinn.

“You’ve got Leanne Kiernan, Heather Payne and Meg Connolly coming in for Brighton so we’re definitely bringing up the amount of Irish in the league. The structure over here is brilliant and they’ve made sure that it’s a professional setup so there is certain standards that have clubs have to meet.

“It helps that Ireland has good young players coming through and the games are televised and when you get back to Irish camp girls will have watched games. It’s a very strong league and it’s only growing.”


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