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Dublin: 11°C Wednesday 30 September 2020

Niall Quinn pays tribute to long-serving Arsenal scout who spotted legendary Irish Gunners

Bill Darby, who worked for North London club for over 40 years and is associated with Liam Brady, Dave O’Leary and Frank Stapleton, passed away over the weekend.

Quinn in action for Arsenal against Spurs in 1987.
Quinn in action for Arsenal against Spurs in 1987.
Image: S&G and Barratts/EMPICS Sport

NIALL QUINN HAS thanked Bill Darby for putting his faith him as a young, aspiring footballer. 

Dublin-based Darby worked for 44 years as Arsenal’s scout and is associated with bringing Irish greats such as Liam Brady, Dave O’Leary and Frank Stapleton to the North London club. 

On Sunday, he passed away peacefully at the Mater Hospital. 

Quinn, now interim deputy CEO of the FAI, was a talented athlete balancing hurling (with the Dublin minors and Robert Emmets) and soccer (for his school Drimnagh Castle and Manortown United) when he received a surprise visit from Darby in 1983.  

“It was the Tuesday night after we had lost the All-Ireland minor hurling final to Galway when Bill came to the house,” Quinn told the FAI, in an article paying tribute to Darby

“I’d spent the summer playing GAA and hurling, touring Australia with the Dublin Colleges and training for that minor hurling final. I hadn’t played football since May, when we beat Ballymun in that schools final, so it was a surprise to say the least when Bill knocked on the door.

“He explained that Arsenal wanted me over for two weeks the following Monday for a trial. I was worried about my lack of football but he was adamant that I’d be fit enough from the hurling and it wouldn’t be an issue. He assured me Arsenal would be happy to work around that.

Bill also told me that he was sending me to Arsenal as a centre-forward and that really meant a lot to me. There was only ever one other man who regarded me as a centre-forward and that was John Molloy, our teacher and coach with Drimnagh Castle.”

Quinn would go on to become one of Ireland’s greatest strikers — scoring 21 international goals in 92 appearances — while carving out a club career at the top level with Arsenal, Manchester City and Sunderland.

He feels indebted to Darby for giving him the opportunity to prove his worth in English football.

“I’ll always be grateful to Bill,” added Quinn. “He saw something in me that very few other people saw and he had faith in me.

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“Without him, who knows what would have happened. My thoughts are with his family now – Bill Darby did so much for me and for so many other Irish players, so much for Arsenal. May he rest in peace.”

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Ben Blake

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