Louise Quinn on judging a bake-off in a banana suit to shattering preconceptions of female athletes

Republic of Ireland WNT Media Event, Castleknock Hotel, Dublin 18/10/2021
Louise Quinn
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Brian Reilly-Troy (Image: ©INPHO/Brian Reilly-Troy)

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Louise Quinn wouldn't change her first step into the pro game in Sweden – not even having to dress up as a banana to judge a bake-off!

Quinn will be Vera Pauw's defensive rock in Tallaght tonight as Ireland look to defy the odds in their World Cup qualifying opener against the world number two ranked Swedes.

The experienced Blessington woman also has an idea about the Swedish psyche. She played with Nathalie Björn and Olivia Scough for Eskilstuna United.

"I know some of the others, too," she said. "I saw Nathalie at Everton a few weeks ago. She seems to be flying. Olivia won the Damallsvenskan with Rosengård on Sunday."

Quinn began her pro journey in the Scandinavian country with Eskilstuna, helping the club gain promotion to the top flight and then to become runners-up in the Damallsvenskan in her third of four seasons there.

"I went into the unknown," said the adventurous centre-half, who more recently spent time with Fiorentina.

"Being in Sweden taught me how to be a professional. My two best friends are living over there, married and with a baby.

"I always had been fit but never as athletic as I had wanted to be – that had changed from being in Sweden. That was the lifestyle and I learned so much and carried that forward, in terms of being a professional.

"Their league set-up is so professional. Even as kids, they're in the gym doing the basics and that gives a base of strength and nutrition.

"One of their classes we coached was football, coaching 13,14, 15 year-olds and they’re getting graded for that in school. How can you not get motivated by that and enjoy it?".

The players were encouraged to promote the club through community events, too, and crowd numbers at games increased greatly – from 200 to over 6000.

"I judged a Bake Off in the middle of the city one day, dressed as a banana because it was for Fair Trade. I had to taste them all. There's a picture – but you can’t find it," laughed Quinn.

"And then the city got to know you and trusted you and you’d get crowds and crowds of people coming to you. It was special."

Quinn's career since then has seen her play in the WSL with Notts County, Arsenal and Birmingham, and in Italy. At international level, she has 87 caps over 13 years.

Now 31, Quinn is ready to plough on, dismissive of the suggestion that she could be nearing the end.

International Friendly Women, Tallaght Stadium, Dublin 21/9/2021 Republic of Ireland WNT vs Australia Women Ireland's Louise Quinn celebrates scoring her sides third goal Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie
(Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie)

She said: "People think that because we’re women, we have to go have the babies and do all that. There is still that prejudice about it.

"I'm here to do a job, I feel fit, I feel good and that’s it. But that’s something again you want to change in the game.

"But you still even do hear in men’s football when they’re in their early 30s, it still just comes to it. It’s how you feel, if you’re still performing, it doesn’t matter."

Quinn talks about Sweden's organisation and physicality, the fact that their style of play is ingrained in Ireland's opponents since youth level.

"They can probably make a lot of their passes with their eyes closed, to be honest," she said. "They just know where they’re going to be, even if they get in a sticky situation."

Ireland's losing run ended against Australia in last month's friendly and Quinn is looking for "a statement to the group" tonight. "It's all about us," he stressed.

"It's about still building on what we’ve got and not dropping off a level again and just taking it on."

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