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Star footballer, quality analyst, huge role model: Quinn leading the way in inspiring next generation

Ireland international and Arsenal defender Louise Quinn is making a remarkable impact on and off the pitch.

OVER THE PAST month or so, new faces and voices have graced our television screens every single day with the Women’s World Cup in full flow in France. 

For those steeped in women’s football circles, it would be quite worrying if one didn’t recognise towering Ireland international and Arsenal star defender Louise Quinn. But the casual television watcher could be forgiven for not being able to pick her out at the start of it all.

louise Louise Quinn has been brilliant on RTÉ's World Cup commentary. Source: RTÉ.

Live game after live game on RTÉ, everyone soon became acquainted with the Wicklow native and her brilliant football brain. While it was a shame that she and her fellow Ireland internationals Megan Campbell and Stephanie Roche to name just two, weren’t donning the green jersey themselves, they were able to bring the action to us through their unique insights and invaluable analysis of their team-mates and opponents on the world’s biggest stage.

Quinn was outstanding, it must be said. Confident and assured, she struck the perfect balance between empathetic and harsh analysis. She wasn’t afraid to criticise, as per the job spec, and showed a more daring, cutting side when necessary. 

With the eyes of the nation on her — many of those young kids — she held herself superbly, her glowing personality shining through as she shared brilliant nuggets of information and anecdotes to beat the band

After all, she knows just how important visibility is for the women’s game. And how people like her, at the forefront, are changing attitudes and capturing people’s hearts and minds using their platforms.

She’s been doing so for quite a while now, but everything most definitely upped a level when the 20×20 campaign officially launched in mid-October. 

You’ve definitely seen #20×20, #CantSeeCantBe and #ShowYourStripes time and time again as you’ve scrolled through social media since then; you’ve seen the videos, read the articles and saw photo after photo pushing the landmark initiative.

The aim exactly? To increase media coverage, boost attendances and ultimately, grow involvement in female sport by 20% by the end of 2020.

A few weeks before the World Cup kicked off, we sat down with Quinn to reflect on what’s been a pretty whirlwind few months. She had just won the Women’s Super League with the Gunners, was fronting the biggest Women in Sport campaign this country has ever seen and was preparing for life as a pundit on terrestrial television. 

Louise Quinn 15/10/2018 Three's 20x20 ambassador Quinn. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Pretty surreal.

Is that how it sounds to her too?

The 29-year-old laughs first, telling a story of how her agent asked if she was ready for her face to become well-known as 20×20 took off. 

“Saying that though it sounds very good,” she beams. “For me to have 20×20 is one of the proudest things I’ve been a part of. To add it to my career is incredibly special.

On the pitch you do as much as you can, you want to do well and you want to win and inspire people and all that. But to have this opportunity off the pitch to really hit home and try to grow the game is special.”

She’s spoken about it before, how she realised just how important growth and visibility was as she began her professional career in Sweden. She can see things going that way in Ireland now. Slowly but surely, this is only the start, she assures.

RTÉ and TG4 combining to show every game of the World Cup has been a massive step in the right direction. To look back on when Quinn was growing up in Blessington, that was unimaginable. 

She’s a role model to so many far and wide now but back then, her’s were much closer to home. Her parents were a huge influence, of course, but there were many, many more. Her first coach gets a mention — her friend Derek’s dad who invited her to play for the Blessington boys’ team — as does a certain teacher very close to her heart.

It’s like a trip down memory lane as Quinn had just come home from England the night before and looked through a box of old bits and pieces her mother had kept from through the years. 

There was a Wicklow People front page cut-out in there, the main story about a murder which obviously led to quite a bit of confusion. But then she saw a tiny article along the side:

Louise Quinn, eight-years-old, has made history scoring against Firhouse U9s

lq Source: Louise Quinn Instagram.

Then she found a note from a certain Miss Slattery:

I think you’re a good footballer — better than any boy!

And that obviously stuck with her. 

Hopefully she hears this as she probably doesn’t even remember it,” Quinn grins. “It was something really special.”

It really does just take one person, one small act like that, to make you feel like you can do anything.

“Even at the start of the note from my teacher it says you don’t get homework off if you ask for homework off so obviously I was being cheeky asking can I not get homework today,” she laughs, “and she was like no but you are good at football.

It is those little things, those little words of encouragement and when it comes from your parents and loved ones, it’s massive but when it comes from a teacher a coach someone different… Your parents obviously think you are the best person ever all the time!

“The fact we still have it is hilarious.”

Now, she’s that role model, inspiring the next generation through small acts like the note Miss Slattery gave her all those years ago.

One such young girl she’s struck a special relationship with is Freya Fitzpatrick. 

Captain of Larkview U13s, Freya was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumour last year and Quinn shared their touching story.

“She’s more of a role model to me than I am to her,” as she told The42 last October. “She’s just incredible, everything she’s going through.”

Freya, of course, comes up in conversation after she captained her Templeogue Synge Street side to Division Five Féile glory recently.

freya Source: Dublin LGFA/Twitter.

“Myself and Freya have made such a friendship,” Quinn beams.

“Even after the game where I had broken my nose for the second time, she said, ‘Wow you are amazing, you are so brave.’ Look at her! 

She is back playing not a bother, doing brilliant. She is the role model to me. Any time I’m like, ‘Oh, I just don’t want to go training’ she makes you think you’ve got to want to do it.”

The role model thing is a lot of responsibility, of course, but it’s something that really sits well with her. She’s always wanted to make an impact — and has herself, alone, in the past — but teamwork is key after all, with everyone coming together and fighting for the same cause.

“It’s enjoyable,” she enthuses. “Hopefully I can keep myself being a role model, I don’t think I’ve been in the news for anything much else!

At the moment it’s enjoyable and it’s something I love taking on. I have to keep challenging myself through this and putting myself out of my comfort zone. I’m learning so much and it’s enjoyable for me.

“If you can inspire just a few people, that’s amazing.”

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About the author:

Emma Duffy

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