Tuesday 24 April 2018

Quinn ready to put Cup woe behind him in bid to catch the eye of O'Neill and Keane ahead of qualifiers

Extra-time loss to Arsenal ended season on a low note but Hull midfielder knows top-flight survival was all that really mattered

Stephen Quinn wants to put Hull City's FA Cup final defeat behind him and is focusing on working his way into contention for Ireland. Photo: Tom Dulat - The FA/The FA via Getty Images
Stephen Quinn wants to put Hull City's FA Cup final defeat behind him and is focusing on working his way into contention for Ireland. Photo: Tom Dulat - The FA/The FA via Getty Images
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Seven days ago, Stephen Quinn was gearing up for the biggest game of his life. He will remember it with mixed feelings.

The 28-year-old Hull City midfielder was a surprise inclusion in their side for the FA Cup final at Wembley, but had a hand in their two opening goals to put Arsenal on the ropes. "I was thinking, blow it up, blow it up!" he recalled yesterday, with a wry smile.

Arsene Wenger's side mounted a comeback from that point and went away with the trophy, leaving the Dubliner torn between disappointment and a sense of pride at the overall achievement.

"To start an FA Cup final, you don't realise how big it is until afterwards," he says, "There is no shame in getting beat by Arsenal, but it's a bit gutting going two goals up and losing it in extra-time.

"It's heartbreaking really. You know, being that close, for the rest of your life you'd be thinking we were the nearly men against Arsenal. But I think we put on a good spectacle. We didn't make a show of ourselves and the most important thing – the real aim of the season – is that we stayed in the Premier League."

It was a stop-start campaign for Quinn (right), the younger brother of former international Alan, who was troubled by a hamstring injury throughout the season. He lost his place in Steve Bruce's side having been a fixture in their promotion charge and also had to pull out of Ireland squads which was a source of frustration as he feels there is a need to make up for lost time. That's why he has no quibbles about sticking around for the four-game friendly series which starts against Turkey at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow.

"I never got a look in under Trapattoni really," he says. "I just got in towards the end of his reign. I was pushing hard trying to get into the press to see if I could get my name mentioned. It didn't happen until towards the end, but that's in the past. Now, it's under new management and I'm looking forward to it."

The presence of Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane has ensured a good turnout of players and Quinn has noted that on on the training ground over the past two days. "It's not end-of-season stuff," he observes. "The lads are still on it because they're vying for places in the qualifiers.

Norwich's Anthony Pilkington is another player looking to make up for his absence from previous gatherings. The luckless midfielder has been plagued by injuries – including a permanent knee condition that has to be managed – and sat out part of training again yesterday.

He also learned this week that Neil Adams, who froze him out of the Norwich side in the final weeks of their doomed fight with relegation, has secured the job on a permanent basis.

"I've another year on my contract," he says. "Obviously, he came in towards the end of the season and I wasn't playing, I wasn't in his plans. I have to wait and see what happens in pre-season and go from there.

"It's been very frustrating. I had a few injuries, one just before Christmas which kept me out for I think 12 weeks. Then I got back and I was available for the rest of it, but the manager, you know, had other ideas."

The fact that O'Neill kept in touch was a positive for Pilkington and Roy Keane also had kind words to say about the 25-year-old.

"He's clearly a talented lad," said the assistant. "We have to get him up to speed with his fitness which seems to be an ongoing problem. But he's a goal threat and you need goals from your midfielders."

There was bad if not unexpected news for another Irish player that spent the majority of this season on the treatment table with Keiren Westwood informed by Sunderland that his contract will not be renewed. The goalkeeper is not available for this Irish meet-up due to injury.

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport