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From having no club to sharing a gym with Ozil and Cech - Louise Quinn's crazy 4 months

The Irish international signed a new deal with Arsenal during the week.

Louise Quinn has won 59 caps for Ireland.
Louise Quinn has won 59 caps for Ireland.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Updated at 12.29

WHEN LOUISE QUINN and I last spoke, her career had just hit quite possibly its lowest point.

Up until that fateful day on 21 April 2017, the Irish defender’s footballing path had largely remained steadily on an upward trajectory.

Having grown up in Blessington, County Wicklow, Quinn played underage football with Lakeside FC before joining Peamount United. She quickly became a key figure at the Dublin club, captaining them to the last 32 of the Champions League among other notable achievements.

Quinn subsequently joined Swedish side Eskilstuna United in 2013 — the same year she was named the FAI Senior Women’s International Player of the Year. And just as she did with Peamount, the centre-back thrived during a four-year stint in Sweden, having been awarded the club captaincy while helping them win promotion and qualify for the Champions League during her time there.

Having decided to move closer to home, Quinn linked up Notts County last February. Yet she had barely kicked a ball for her new club when disaster struck.

Just two days before they were due to open their Spring Series campaign against Arsenal, Quinn and her team-mates were called into a meeting by the club’s hierarchy. It was there that they received the shock news that they would all have to look for a new team. The financial troubles at Meadow Lane meant the difficult decision was made to withdraw from the women’s league, which subsequently led to the Notts County Ladies side folding.

Team-mates expressed shock on social media. It was a group that included England internationals Carly Telford, Laura Bassett, Jade Moore and Jo Potter, a side who had finished sixth in the league and reached the FA Cup final the previous season. Yet all of a sudden, these elite players were left jobless and facing uncertain futures.

This unexpected turn of events was a sobering reminder of how tenuous and harsh life in football — and particularly women’s football — can be.

Basically, the chairman led us to believe that it was going to be okay, even for the girls that had been in the club for a while, he led them to believe that everything was going to be sorted,” Quinn said at the time. “It’s really devastating. A lot of people have their lives here. Some of them work part-time, they study, they’re settled.

“Some of the houses that we live in, they’re owned by the club, we’re not sure how long we can actually stay for. We don’t know when we’ll be asked to leave the houses. It’s a massive shock.”

With the benefit of a few months’ hindsight, Quinn acknowledges that the Notts County debacle was a tough and eye-opening experience.

You learn what professional football is about,” she tells The42. “It is a little bit of a rollercoaster, it can be very up and down. When you get opportunities, you just have to take them. If something goes wrong, there will be something else that comes up.

“There are definitely going to be hard times in football, but if you just get through that and push on, it’s always going to open up other opportunities.

You’re always going to look back on it and be angry and disappointed in the manner it happened, and that it actually happened. But in another sense, you have to think that you’re coming into professional football and it is a business. It’ll still always sit with me as one of the craziest things that happened in my career.

“But there is always something else, there are always more teams. I suppose you can be a little bit more wary about the situation and ask different questions. If you ask the right questions, you can maybe figure out if the club has that sort of stability.”

Louise Quinn Quinn was named FAI Senior Women's International Player of the Year in 2013. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Fortunately for Quinn, she recovered from this setback and has landed firmly on her feet. The Wicklow native and her team-mates initially worried that they would be left in limbo with the transfer deadline having passed.

Yet the following week, with the exceptional circumstances of the situation in mind, the Football Association announced that the Notts County players would be granted permission to move to other English clubs “with immediate effect”.

Quinn consequently joined Arsenal on a short-term deal, while she says almost all her ex-Notts County team-mates signed for new clubs.

When the season started again, there were a couple of them that we hadn’t heard from, but I know one of the girls has gone back and is working with Brighton and Hove Albion.

“I think everyone has really sorted themselves out and landed on their feet in a way that they wanted to.

There are new contracts coming out for the new season, so I think (not everyone is sorted), but they’re not going to let (the Notts County situation) dampen their spirits of going and playing professional football.”

Quinn’s initial Arsenal contract ran out at the beginning of June, as for the second time in the space of less than two months, she faced the prospect of an uncertain future. However, after a long wait, it was finally announced during the week that she had extended her stay at the club.

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Having impressed during her short time at the club so far, Quinn was always confident a new deal would be forthcoming, nonetheless it was a relief to finally sign on the dotted line with the start of the season still a few weeks away.

I got given the chance to come to such a big club and you want to prove yourself straight away and try to make sure you can stay in the team,” she adds.

“It was a tough situation to come into, but I wasn’t too worried either. I’d already been through a lot, so I thought I might as well just enjoy this opportunity. It’s something that had come out of nowhere. I didn’t have too much time to think about it really.

I was able to get that bit of game time and help contribute to the team, so it worked out well in the end.”

The 27-year-old has already been back in pre-season training for almost three weeks and the Gunners defender is hopeful she can be an integral part of the 2017-18 campaign for the club, with intense training sessions already being held two (and sometimes three) times a day at this point.

Moreover, at a club as wealthy as Arsenal, the resources there are a cut above anything Quinn has experienced in her career to date.

It’s a really impressive set-up that they have here,” she says. “There are maybe 11-12 training pitches, an absolute top-class gym facility on campus, so you have no excuses to say that you’re not given the right tools and the right facilities to play to your ability.

“It just makes it really enjoyable as well going out onto the pitch… The changing rooms are great, having the social room as well and having those little team moments. You don’t just arrive at training, get there and leave. It’s a little social experience in itself, it builds good team camaraderie and stuff like that.”

Seeing stars such as Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez strolling about the place is another reminder of how far Quinn has swiftly come just months after being released by Notts County.

“You’d see them in the gym. Arsene Wenger was watching one of the girls doing some deadlifts the other day. The lads would be hopping around. We’d sometimes have different schedules, but you’d see them. Petr Cech, you’d see him around a lot, he’s a bit of a talker.

It’s a nice environment. You’re always in the gym as well with the underage fellas — the youth team, the U23s, they’re starting from about 16 or 17. We’re all using the one facility. It does make it one club.”

Quinn attended the recent 2017 Euros in the Netherlands as a fan and in order to show support to some current and former club-mates. But as pleased as she was for her friends, the Irish star also admits to feeling a degree of jealousy, given that she would much rather be confronting them on the pitch rather than watching the action as a spectator.

Stephanie Roche, Aine O'Gorman and Emma Byrne with members of the women's national team Stephanie Roche, Aine O'Gorman and Emma Byrne with members of the women's national team as they held a press conference last April in protest at how they had been treated by the FAI. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

And despite having won 59 caps for Ireland in total, Quinn has yet to experience the thrill of playing at a major tournament.

The Girls in Green, who will be managed by Colin Bell and led by new team captain Katie McCabe for the first time in a qualification phase, have been handed a tough draw as they attempt to reach 2019 Fifa Women’s World Cup in France.

Both Norway and the Netherlands featured at the 2017 Euros, with the latter team winning the competition outright. Northern Ireland, who the Republic open their campaign against at Mourneview Park in Lurgan on 19 September, and Slovakia, complete Group 3.

What makes qualifying especially difficult is that only one automatic qualification spot is up for grabs, while there is a potential place in the play-offs, if the team that finishes second are one of the four best runners-up from seven groups.

Critics may not fancy their chances of progression, but Quinn is quietly confident the Irish side can surprise a few people, particularly in light of the recent high-profile changes that have been agreed to within the set-up, after the team protested in unison at the manner in which they had been treated by the FAI over the years.

“The changes can be good for us — it can take us to that next step,” she says.

It might be a thing where people on the outside don’t respect it, but we’re starting something really good in the Irish squad, so hopefully we can deliver that and bring it onto the pitch when it matters.

“Some of it has really started to come around. When we’re in camp, it’s happy. (We can) use the gym facilities in Abbotstown. Hopefully now, the home-based training should be starting for the Irish girls that are at home. Some of it does take time, but you see the quality we have in camp. Even everyone’s attitude towards it, there’s an extra fire in our belly after all that.

We weren’t fighting just to fight, we were doing it because it was good for us and for everything that we’ve achieved.

“It was a really great step for us and we’ve just got to deliver now. We’ve got to take these added incentives that we have, use it and play to our ability.”

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