| 2.9°C Dublin

Niall Quinn's World Cup 2002 diary: Spain - Adios from me - now I'll be team's biggest fan

'I found it very emotional at the end, walking off knowing that that was my international career finished. But it's not anything I want to labour. Better players than me have been through that. You just take your leave. Walk away.'

Close

Niall Quinn bids farewell to the irish fans after the team's exit from World Cup 2002 and his international retirement

Niall Quinn bids farewell to the irish fans after the team's exit from World Cup 2002 and his international retirement

Niall Quinn bids farewell to the irish fans after the team's exit from World Cup 2002 and his international retirement

NO regrets, not a murmur.

It is a cruel way to go out of the World Cup, of course. But something very exciting has taken shape here.

I may be coming to the end, but this Ireland team is going to be around in big tournaments for many years to come. I have absolutely no doubt about that. The next eight years, I believe, is going to be a golden era for Irish soccer.

That's what this tournament has unequivocally announced.

I'm not going home lamenting missed penalty kicks. Absolutely not. I'm actually delighted with myself that I had some role to play at the infant stages of this team. I thought I'd seen it all with Ireland. Thought I'd seen it all in my career. But this World Cup was new territory. Unbelievable. I've loved every minute, just wish I was a few years younger.

I found it very emotional at the end, walking off knowing that that was my international career finished. But it's not anything I want to labour. Better players than me have been through that. You just take your leave. Walk away.

Close

Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy consoles Niall Quinn after Ireland's penalty shoot-out defeat to Spain at the 2002 World Cup in Suwon, Korea. Picture credit; David Maher / SPORTSFILE *EDI*

Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy consoles Niall Quinn after Ireland's penalty shoot-out defeat to Spain at the 2002 World Cup in Suwon, Korea. Picture credit; David Maher / SPORTSFILE *EDI*

Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy consoles Niall Quinn after Ireland's penalty shoot-out defeat to Spain at the 2002 World Cup in Suwon, Korea. Picture credit; David Maher / SPORTSFILE *EDI*

I've had a wonderful time. The connection out here between players and fans has been like nothing I've ever known before.

What a way to sign off then? It could have been a damp, cold night playing away to Russia, getting dumped out of some qualifying tournament. But this was something unforgettable. An incredible few weeks that we all travelled through as one. Fans, players, staff.

Maybe it's because I'm older, I don't know. But this will bring me far happier memories than anything I've done before.

Sport Newsletter

Get the best analysis and comment from our award-winning team of writers and columnists with our free newsletter.

This field is required

I was due to take the sixth penalty. I took the sixth one for Sunderland a few years ago when we faced Charlton in a Division One play-off. I honestly felt that Shay was going to save from Mendieta. I was psyching myself up for the kick. Just wanted one more kick in an Ireland shirt. But it wasn't to be.

I was actually quite confident I would score. It's amazing how the psychological pendulum swings. When they missed their fourth - and their second in a row - I really thought we had them.

Close

Gaizka Mendieta of Spain scores the winning penalty past Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given to win the shoot out. FIFA World Cup Finals, 2nd Round, Republic of Ireland v Spain, Suwon, Korea. Picture credit; David Maher / SPORTSFILE *EDI*

Gaizka Mendieta of Spain scores the winning penalty past Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given to win the shoot out. FIFA World Cup Finals, 2nd Round, Republic of Ireland v Spain, Suwon, Korea. Picture credit; David Maher / SPORTSFILE *EDI*

Gaizka Mendieta of Spain scores the winning penalty past Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given to win the shoot out. FIFA World Cup Finals, 2nd Round, Republic of Ireland v Spain, Suwon, Korea. Picture credit; David Maher / SPORTSFILE *EDI*

And what a scruffy penalty it was that claimed the victory. I thought Tony Cascarino took the biscuit for scruffy penalties. A divot hit the net the same time as the ball when Tony took his famous kick in Genoa. But Mendieta's was every bit as poor. Probably the worst penally he's ever taken. C'est la vie.

I know the lads who missed are hurting. But they have to look at their ages and assess dispassionately what they've just achieved in this tournament.

I'm really looking forward now to bringing my family along to future Irish matches, to joining the green army and supporting this team. The experience of Korea and Japan 2002 will be invaluable to them for what lies ahead. We've had incredible highs out here and an incredible low at the end.

That's what you need to go through.

Sure, you can harp on the cruel side of things, if you choose. But these guys became real men, real Irish heroes in this World Cup. Especially the five penalty takers. Six actually. Because Ian Harte is a hero in my eyes for being brave enough to take one in normal time.

These guys have to be really positive now. I think the days of Ireland being happy just to qualify for a tournament are over. We're going to have far more serious intentions from now on.

Funny how informal everything becomes in the middle of the cauldron. We had a fair idea from training who wanted to take the penalties and in what order. Mark Kinsella and myself were deciding who'd go sixth and seventh

I said I'd go sixth and Mark laughed back, reminding me that he had actually taken one when Charlton beat us at Wembley.

There was no sense of panic, no terror. Penalties, effectively, come down to a lot of luck. We didn't get it. But no-one should feel in any way ashamed.

Mick McCarthy asked me a couple of years ago to do a job for him, to help some young players coming through. My contribution wasn't very much. To be honest, these kids didn't need a whole lot anyway. They, effectively, did it all themselves.

But it gave me immense satisfaction just to be around them. Just doing my bit. And the loyalty Mick showed me was incredible. But time's up now, definitely up.

Next time Ireland play, I'm going to be out there with those supporters, maybe with a big tricolour wrapped around me. I'm going to enjoy the trips from now on.

Close

Niall Quinn consoles David Connolly after he had missed a penalty during the shoot out. FIFA World Cup Finals, 2nd Round, Republic of Ireland v Spain, Suwon, Korea. Soccer. Picture credit; David Maher / SPORTSFILE *EDI*

Niall Quinn consoles David Connolly after he had missed a penalty during the shoot out. FIFA World Cup Finals, 2nd Round, Republic of Ireland v Spain, Suwon, Korea. Soccer. Picture credit; David Maher / SPORTSFILE *EDI*

Niall Quinn consoles David Connolly after he had missed a penalty during the shoot out. FIFA World Cup Finals, 2nd Round, Republic of Ireland v Spain, Suwon, Korea. Soccer. Picture credit; David Maher / SPORTSFILE *EDI*

What do you say to the poor guys who missed? Well, you remind them of perspective. When Mattie Holland came back to the centre circle, he was absolutely distraught. But, let's be honest, he has become an Irish legend with what he's done over the last few weeks.

He had the disappointment of relegation with Ipswich this season, but he's had a wonderful World Cup. Yes, a low way to finish.

But I just went up to him and said 'Look, you're a world-class player now. How bad is that? Why be down on yourself?'

Poor Kevin Kilbane was beside himself. He had a magnificent game last night. Showed for the ball from the first whistle. Things didn't fall kindly for him between the penalty miss and the skewed rebound after Harty's effort was parried by Casillas. But he was fantastic.

Kevin Kilbane has set the standard for himself now. He's got to go on now. He's got another 40 caps in him and, hopefully, most of them will come at big tournaments.

Someone said afterwards that there is a homecoming planned for us in Dublin. The people have always amazed me, but never more than on this trip.

I don't know whether it's because we've been so far away from home or whether it had something to do with everything that went on in the build-up. But the power of what happened here has been frightening.

On Friday night, we sat down to watch the videos of what was happening in Ireland. And, after seeing that, we can scarcely believe they want to do something like this. Mind you, we understand if they do. And, if the players do get a homecoming, I’ll be telling them to save every memory as it's precious.

I didn't do that in 1990 and I feel guilty for it. I was younger and, in many ways, let the moment slip by. Well, I won't be letting this one slip, no matter who turns up to meet us.

We had two or three retirement parties to go to last night. Some guys were very down afterwards, others not so bad.

The important thing is that people remind these players how good they are, how good they have been and how good they can now become.

Close

16 June 2002; A dejected Robbie Keane, Republic of Ireland, holds his head in his hands after defeat to Spain. FIFA World Cup Finals, 2nd Round, Republic of Ireland v Spain, Suwon World cup stadium, Suwon, Korea. Soccer. Cup2002. Picture credit; David Maher / SPORTSFILE *EDI*

16 June 2002; A dejected Robbie Keane, Republic of Ireland, holds his head in his hands after defeat to Spain. FIFA World Cup Finals, 2nd Round, Republic of Ireland v Spain, Suwon World cup stadium, Suwon, Korea. Soccer. Cup2002. Picture credit; David Maher / SPORTSFILE *EDI*

16 June 2002; A dejected Robbie Keane, Republic of Ireland, holds his head in his hands after defeat to Spain. FIFA World Cup Finals, 2nd Round, Republic of Ireland v Spain, Suwon World cup stadium, Suwon, Korea. Soccer. Cup2002. Picture credit; David Maher / SPORTSFILE *EDI*

Duffer? For 120 minutes, he was absolutely fantastic. Breathtaking. He's one fella that I’ll be glad to be able to tell my grandchildren that I played with him. Wonderful.

Robbie? Scored three World Cup goals, four actually if you include his second penalty. Grew up so much over here.

People still talk about Robbie in slightly negative terms, about it not happening for him at Inter and Dave O’Leary not playing him that much now at Leeds, but he's going back now with his chest out. Watch Robbie Keane next year, I say. Because he's going to be absolutely sensational. He's been a star.

And, out here, he was in good company.


Most Watched





Privacy