Stand-off galvanised Ireland team, says Quinn
There's something calm about Louise Quinn. Standing in the tunnel after her side's dramatic 2-1 victory over Slovakia, the towering defender's eyes are sparkling with pride, but she is relaxed and thoughtful when reflecting on the win.
Ireland remain unbeaten in the World Cup qualifying campaign, chasing their goal of reaching a major tournament like their lives are depending on it.
"I'm elated and relieved," says Quinn. "It proved that everything we put into it is working. Not so long ago some of those things wouldn't have fallen for us but I really feel there is something special going on and it's great to be part of it.
"We are a very, very tight group; even though the age gap in the team is quite big, we understand what we are all going through and we all work really hard for each other."
Perhaps it shouldn't be any surprise there is such a tight bond in the group considering what they have been through in the last 12 months. After Friday night's game in Tallaght Stadium the players lined up to sign autographs and take selfies with young fans. No one was left out. There was such joy in the scene.
The image was a far cry from the situation a year ago when the squad stood shoulder to shoulder in Liberty Hall to demand respect from their association. They made headlines with their basic demands, which included gear, more home-based training sessions and gym memberships. After a couple of days of a stand-off an agreement was reached with the FAI and the squad got back to business. "What happened last year kick-started us, from that we have definitely felt a big bond grow in the team," agrees Quinn.
Last week reports emerged that there was an issue with a match fee not being paid for a challenge game at the end of a recent camp against Cork City's under 15 boys team but Quinn was quick to dismiss these claims. "There is no issue there, it came out of nowhere, to me there is nothing there. We want to concentrate on football."
Quinn is 27, over a decade older than some of the players in the squad. She has played in Sweden and is now playing at the top level in England. Last April she was dealt a huge blow when her team, Notts County, folded unexpectedly. But one door closed, and another soon opened.
"Obviously when you are in that situation your thoughts wander and you realise that you are out of a job. But when I was given a chance at Arsenal I decided to just go for it, they are a world-class team and it was such an opportunity. Arsenal is full time. The facilities are brilliant and there is great history there with the Irish players . . . Emma Byrne, Yvonne Tracy, Ciara Grant, Niamh Fahey, it's endless and it's brilliant me being there. It's improved me as a player, as a professional."
The Wicklow native is always on hand to share her knowledge and experience with her international team-mates.
"I feel like they can come to me when they need to and I'll be there for them to give them advice on and off the pitch. I probably talk to Amber (Barrett) and Leanne (Kiernan) the most, about their movement and what can make things hard for me as a defender. It's good that we have that relationship that we can talk to each other about anything. If someone isn't sure about something they can ask the question. People aren't afraid and everyone has a voice."
Quinn's leadership qualities are undeniable; they shine through on the pitch. On Friday, after the disappointment of conceding an equaliser so soon after taking the lead, she was quick to galvanise the players. She is constantly talking and encouraging her team-mates. "I like to keep switched on, and talking to those around me benefits me as well," she says.
On Tuesday, the European Champions are in town and having already secured a scoreless draw against the Netherlands, Quinn says Ireland will be ready for the challenge. "We can dig out results, we have proved that. We are a very tough team to break down. They have star players everywhere and at Arsenal myself and Katie (McCabe) would know a few of them. We have put ourselves in the best position possible with the win against Slovakia."
With that Quinn dashes off to the bus to be with her team-mates, it's all about the football for them now. What a difference a year makes.
Sunday Indo Sport