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More Ireland players 'stepping up to be a professional footballer, training full-time'

Louise Quinn is encouraged by the progress the squad have made of late.

Republic of Ireland WNT Squad Training at Tallaght Stadium on Wednesday.
Republic of Ireland WNT Squad Training at Tallaght Stadium on Wednesday.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Updated Oct 21st 2021, 5:39 PM

LOUISE QUINN was promptly made captain after signing for Birmingham and upon speaking to her, it is easy to see why.

The Blessington native comes across as very much the elder stateswoman in the way she marvels at how some of her younger teammates are developing.

The 31-year-old centre-back signed for the Blues last July and is currently one of seven Irish players on the books at the club.

Nearly all the others are recent recruits too. Eleanor Ryan-Doyle, Emily Whelan and Jamie Finn each joined from the Women’s National League earlier this year.

Marie Hourihan and Lucy Quinn were also 2021 signings from Braga and Tottenham respectively.

It is only Harriet Scott who has relative experience at the club, having played there since 2018.

The moves were a boost for Finn, Ryan-Doyle and Whelan in particular, as they get accustomed to playing in a fully professional league for the first time.

“We’re training together, we’re seeing how we’re getting on and the girls hadn’t played professionally before,” Quinn says. “You can just see them gradually getting to the pace of it each week. They work their asses off against some of the best players in Chelsea, Man United and all the games have been difficult. The shifts they’re putting in, how they’re trying to learn and adapt, I just love seeing it.”

On the sudden influx of Irish players to the club, the defender jokes: “We’re just trying to take over. We thought it might have been the Scots [who had the majority] first of all. We’re getting there now and anyone else that comes in has to be accepted for an Irish passport as well.”

The accomplished skipper has made a positive impact at her new club. Quinn scored earlier this month in the 1-1 draw with West Ham — thereby earning their first point of the season.

It is still likely to be a long, hard season for Birmingham, of course. They finished just two points above the relegation zone last year, and currently, they are again second from bottom in the table, losing all but one of their opening five games.

Nonetheless, they certainly appear better placed for this fight with Quinn in the team — manager Scott Booth recently described her as “a rock at the back so far this season”.

“A lot of the games I’ve had to play lately are a lot of defending and thankfully, I love to do that,” she explains. “It’s one of those things where it’s about being in the right place at the right time.

“Over the years, the pace has changed completely and the quality of players that are coming in [has improved]. And so for me, I said: ‘Right, I’ll put myself up against the best and get back up to that pace of the game,’ so I think I’ve started to do that.”

Quinn has now spent well over a decade playing at senior level, becoming an Ireland stalwart in the process, while highlights have included three years at one of the top sides in the world in Arsenal.

Before Birmingham, her most recent stint was in Italy with Fiorentina, though it proved short-lived. When she recalls the move now, her feelings are mixed.

“I loved it, I met the best people who I’m still in contact with. At that time, there were so many elements of Covid, moving away from home, leaving the league that I wanted to be in and stay in. I had to change and pick up my life when people couldn’t even leave the house. It was really difficult, not to have the people around you. You wanted to be able to do the job that you love with the people around you that you love as well.

“There are lots of different elements and I still loved it. I learnt a lot there and picked up so much and brought it back here.”

She adds with a smile: “Now that people understand me, that’s helpful as well, so the voice is probably a bit more useful.”

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louise-quinn Louise Quinn believes Ireland can cause an upset against Sweden tonight. Source: Brian Reilly-Troy/INPHO

Feelings about the current Ireland setup, meanwhile, are unequivocally positive. Particularly after last month’s morale-boosting win over Australia – a team ranked 22 places above them — ended a seven-game losing run, they go in this evening’s opening World Cup qualifier with Sweden at Tallaght Stadium in buoyant form.

“It was a massive result for us. Not even just the win, but against that quality of team. So it’s all just landed at the right time and the short turnover still gives you the itch to get back in [for the next camp]. I have been thinking of getting going and getting the campaign started.

“I wouldn’t say it was frustration coming into the camp [on the back of the previous bad run]. Honestly, we genuinely love coming in all the time. Sometimes, it’s not great with some of the results but with the atmosphere and how we are trying to approach it [it's enjoyable]. And just seeing the girls coming back from their teams, everyone is pushing hard and everyone’s club level is rising to the occasion and stepping up to be a professional footballer, training full-time, you can see it all showing. I love coming in and just seeing how players are developing. It gives you energy and it feeds into the Irish team.

“I suppose at the end of the camp, you can say: ‘Yeah, maybe that was a frustrating result, but coming into the camp was never frustrating.’”

So while acknowledging that there are still areas of their game the Irish team need to “tidy up,” Quinn believes the hosts can cause an upset against the side adjudged to be the second-best in the world (after the USA) as it stands by Fifa.

And there are certain members of the visitors’ squad that the Irish star knows especially well, including FC Rosengård’s Olivia Schough and Everton’s Nathalie Björn, who both were on the books at Eskilstuna United for at least some of Quinn’s four-year stint with the Swedish outfit.

“They are incredibly well-organised, well-disciplined, I’d say they can play a lot of their passes with their eyes closed,” she says of this evening’s opposition. “Even when I was in Sweden, that’s how we played. You knew exactly where your teammate was going to be even when you got into sticky situations. You can see that sort of stuff and the individual skill, everything is there.

“But we’re here to shake it up and we know that they are an incredibly tough team and we’re going to have to have to be 100% to take any of the small chances that we get and to frustrate them. But I think after seeing the opponents that we have played and the results that have come about, they’re hopefully going to know that they’re 100% in for a game.”

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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