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No regrets for Ireland's outgoing Arsenal star

Louise Quinn on leaving the Gunners and her search for a new club.

Louise Quinn has been a regular at the heart of the Irish defence in recent years.
Louise Quinn has been a regular at the heart of the Irish defence in recent years.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Updated at 17.10

A LITTLE OVER three years ago, Louise Quinn’s career was at a crossroads.

The Ireland international had been at Notts County for less than three months when the club suddenly folded.

There had been rumours of financial difficulty, but still the news came as a shock. 

The club’s then-owner Alan Hardy did not have the courtesy to show up amid this debacle. Instead, people who the players had never met before were forced to break the bad news to them.

“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,” Quinn told The42 at the time. “It’s a massive shock.”

Quinn says Hardy previously led herself and team-mates to believe that everything would be okay, only for the opposite to turn out to be the case.

The experience was a reminder of the precariousness of life in football, and particularly women’s football.

It could so easily have caused any player to fall out of love with the sport and pursue a different path. It was certainly the lowest moment of Quinn’s career. Yet she responded by improving her game and going on to enjoy the best spell of her career to date.

After initially signing with Arsenal on a short-term deal, the Irish international ultimately extended her stay at the club.

In addition to 76 appearances during three years there, the Wicklow native helped them win the League Cup in 2018 and the title a year later. After the latter success, Gunners boss Joe Montemurro spoke glowingly of Quinn.

“When I came and I saw Louise Quinn, they told me that she’s just a typical defender that wins the ball, and just plays it long and plays it into channels and stuff like that,” Montemurro told The42.

“And I said, ‘This ain’t going to happen the way we’re going to play.’

“The growth of Louise, I mean I think she’s got the highest pass percentage in the Women’s Super League in terms of completed passes. Okay, a lot of it is preparing for us to go forward — fair enough. But she’s unbelievable. She’s a ball-playing centre-back now. Plus with the attributes in the air, plus the tackling, plus the positioning… In 12 months, she’s developed into a world-class defender.”

It’s just over a year on from that triumph, and last week, it was confirmed that Quinn’s contract at Arsenal would not be renewed.

It was at least handled in a much more professional manner than her Notts County departure. Whereas on that occasion, there was a statement released within 10 or 15 minutes of the players hearing the news, this time, the Irish international had a couple of weeks to digest the setback before it was announced publicly.

That was just the decision that was made and that’s football, you’ve just got to carry on in those circumstances,” she says.

The Notts County exit was due to circumstances beyond her control and it could be argued that similarly unfortunate events are at least partially attributable to this latest decision.

arsenal-women-v-manchester-city-women-fa-womens-super-league-meadow-park Arsenal's Irish internationals Katie McCabe (left) and Louise Quinn celebrate with the FA Women's Super League trophy in 2019. Source: PA

Does Quinn believe she would still be an Arsenal player were it not for the coronavirus hitting clubs financially and prompting the remainder of the Women’s Super League season to be ended prematurely?

“I can’t tell you, to be honest. You’d have to ask the coaches and people like that. It was one of those where I didn’t play as much in the past season as well.

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“It could be a number of things and it could be pretty straightforward. I’m not going to dwell on it too much. I had a great time at Arsenal. There’s no point in me over-thinking the situation — that’s not going to help anyone, that’s not going to help myself. I’m just going to carry on — sometimes, that’s the name of the game in football. Contract’s can [elapse]. It’s just about looking forward now and finding something else.”

What exactly that ‘something else’ is remains to be seen. Quinn previously told The Irish Times that she would “ideally” like to stay in England, while remaining open to moving elsewhere. 

Now back home in Blessington, the 29-year-old feels she is a better player compared with when she joined the North London club and adds that her next move is “a work in progress,” though “as of yet, nothing has been organised”.

While disappointed that her time at the Gunners has come to a conclusion without getting a chance to say a proper goodbye to her team-mates, Quinn understands everyone has been made to suffer to some degree during the pandemic and “it could be a lot worse”.

She is hopeful the chaos of the last few months and the well-documented financial problems at the Football Association of Ireland will not result in the women’s game in this country suffering disproportionately compared to their male counterparts.

Not much is certain with regards sport at the moment though, and while women’s football has made some encouraging growth in recent years, as highlighted by the unprecedented success of last year’s World Cup, the former Peamount captain acknowledges the ramifications of the past few months will be another significant challenge to navigate.

That’s not just women’s sport and women’s football, that’s everywhere. We’re just going to have to wait and see, but hopefully that brings the likes of yourselves, the media, the coverage to step up the game and to keep putting us out there more than ever. If people aren’t going to attend games, or they feel like it’s not that safe to do so, we’re going to have to figure it out. But for me, the 20×20 campaign has just been great, so we’re only going to build on that and make it better.”

Indeed, both Quinn and her sport are no strangers to overcoming obstacles, so there is surely no reason why this latest predicament should turn out any different.

Originally published at 07.30

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Paul Fennessy

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