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'We want to create that sporting joy... but if a result doesn’t come around, it’s not going to stop the progress'

Ireland’s Louise Quinn on tomorrow night’s all-important showdown against Germany, and her new Italian Job.

BELIEF AND CONFIDENCE is going to be paramount if Ireland are to produce the spectacular, upset the odds and beat all-conquering Germany tomorrow night.

But after listening to ever-reliable centre-half Louise Quinn, you’d be filled with both.

louise Louise Quinn at the recent cap presentation. Source: SPORTSFILE.

The Wicklow woman can talk the talk, and walk the walk, and her experience and leadership on and off the pitch is huge for this Irish team. Cool, calm, collected, and a rock of wisdom and sense for younger players, she knows exactly what she and her team-mates have to do to keep the Euro 2022 dream alive: win, to book a play-off spot.

They’re realistic and they know that Germany are one of the best teams in the world, but they also know how hungry they are themselves and how much it would mean to take a giant leap towards reaching a first-ever major tournament.

Anything can happen in football, in sport in general, and in life, as we’ve seen through this crazy year that is 2020. But Ireland will keep their feet firmly on the ground; their camp at the Castleknock Hotel chilled, serene and calm as they gear up for one of the biggest games of their lives.

And habits they’ve become accustomed to during the year have come in useful.

“People have taken to mindfulness, and yoga, and reading and just relaxing,” Quinn notes, keeping nuggets of inspiration from her former psychologist at Arsenal and books like The Chimp Paradox, close.

“It’s something that I’ve taken up, just that mindfulness and looking after your own head. You can kind of sense that vibe around camp. Some of the girls are doing a bit of yoga in the morning, which you’d never have heard before.

“There’s definitely some positives from that lockdown. I think people all over the place were able to work on themselves, or create new habits.”

For Quinn, who is now playing her football at Italian side Fiorentina, that’s been done a long way from home in Blessington. She hasn’t seen her family since June, though they keep in close contact despite the distance.

And the hope is they’ll find a way to see each other no matter how Quinn’s international duty for 2020 ends tomorrow night: on a high like no other, or on another low post-Kiev.

diane-caldwell-celebrates-scoring-their-first-goal-with-louise-quinn With Diane Caldwell. Source: Filip Filipovic/INPHO

“That’s been another motivation for me, getting back here, playing my football, and seeing my family,” she nods. “It’s been very tough. Usually, you get your days here and there.

“As always, they manage to find games online so I still have a text afterwards, a ‘Well done,’ or, ‘Hard luck.’ My Mam giving the breakdown, she’s watched me on RTÉ doing the analysis and is trying her own bit of it now.”

The hope is for some face-to-face analysis over the next few says before she heads back to Italy, with her parents cocooning so it will be in a socially-distant outside setting.

“Thankfully it will lift them from lockdown,” she smiles. “It won’t be how you’d like it to be, but it would be great to even see them from a distance.”

The situation with the pandemic has certainly hindered her time in Italy with no family of friends able to visit and cultural activities kept to a minimum, but Quinn is enjoying her football — and the food.

It’s a huge change to life in London at the Gunners, but a welcome one.

“It’s been a massive challenge but actually I’m really really enjoying it. As I weighed options up for me, it was a new challenge that I was really just up for taking.

“The Italians are really known for defensive football. So, for me, it was about just getting stuck in, trying something different, getting out of my comfort zone.

“I think for a long time I’ve always been out of my comfort zone. When I first moved to Arsenal as well and then I really got settled in and learned and adapted, you know to the Arsenal way so this is just another challenge for me.

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“I’m starting to settle really well. It definitely did take me a little while because the temperatures were outrageous, but I’ve really kind of found my feet there now.”

Popping up on the scoresheet recently certainly helped, as has the prospect of Champions League football with a vastly experienced team and continuing her learning and development.

“Something I’ve really enjoyed the challenge out there is reading strikers, they’re excellent with like their back to goal. It’s all about kind of almost reading their body language to see which way they might go. 

“The movement of the German players is excellent as well. They link up really well, and you see with the strikers in the Italian league so I’m just hoping I can kind of bring a little bit of that Italian passion.”

There’s no shortage of that from the star defender, that’s for sure, who forms a formidable centre-back partnership with Diane Caldwell; both often contributing with goals from set-pieces. 

“I’ve played with Di for years and just to have that connection anywhere on the pitch is so important. Hopefully she’ll be able to assist me with a goal, I’ve set her up for two. It’s her turn to do it the other way around,” she grins, heaping praise on the Dubliner.

The plan is to lead from the back, as always, and produce something special. 

The lifts on the GAA front between the Tipperary and Cavan footballers, and the Waterford hurlers, have been mentioned all match-week, as has Shane Long’s 2015 heroics and past experiences against Germany and the Netherlands.

And Quinn looks to the GAA lifts in particular, too.

“That’s why sport is amazing. You see those results. .I kind of figured out there were lot of people I knew from Cavan that I didn’t know were from Cavan popping up out of woodwork.

louise-quinn-celebrates-with-fans-after-the-game Quinn with young fans at Tallaght Stadium. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“I’m a Wicklow woman, I know when the underdogs wins it’s massive. So of course you take inspiration from that. You want to be able to create that history, whether it’s against Germany or whoever.

“We want to create that sporting joy and I feel people are kind of backing us in that way, to be able to celebrate with us, they way they have with county footballers and hurlers. You’ve got to take inspiration from these sporting moments, especially when they’re so close to home, it adds on that extra drive.”

And finally, does this team need a result to make a play-off for this to be a successful campaign?

A last-gasp draw in Athens which felt like a loss, and that gut-wrenching 1-0 defeat to Ukraine last time out could prove costly blows in a missed opportunity as the wait to reach a first-ever major tournament continues.

But that too could all change at Tallaght Stadium tomorrow night. No matter the outcome, the journey continues.

“If a result doesn’t come around, it’s not going to stop the progress of Irish women’s football, or the team,” Quinn concludes. “It’ll show where the team has come from.

“For me, that’s the most positive thing is seeing how this team has built, the girls that are coming through and where it can go. Like the Ukraine [result], you’ve just got to take some of those hardships and that’s what makes you grow.

“We’ve got this task in mind. We’ve got to focus on Tuesday, and see where we go from there.”

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Emma Duffy

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