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Getting the lowdown with Louise Quinn

The Fiorentina and Ireland defender speaks about life in Italy, joining Fiorentina, Champions League, talking Italian, Covid testing, Blessington Boys and Guinness in Ballymore

Irish and Proud
Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

“Football is very cruel and crazy things can happen” As Fiorentina fans we know that’s true!

I managed to steal some valuable free time away from our Irish defensive rock, Louise Quinn, in between Covid testing and cooking dinner. By now this has become just another normal part of a footballers activities “At the moment it’s once a week, pretty much around two days before a game, results are ready by the next day. At first it took maybe a couple of days to get them but at that stage we were getting tested around every four days, but now that it’s once a week they have the results much quicker”

Louise had been delayed getting home after a long day “It was training and then straight to the Centro Sportivo to get tested. We all gathered at the same time and there was only one person testing, but then thankfully a second person came along.”

Which meant that Louise was eventually able to get home and start preparing dinner, something Italian perhaps? “I’m cooking the complete opposite, I’m making a curry right now. I’ve explored and found some Asian supermarkets to get all the ingredients. I really like my curries and Thai food, I love a lot of variety in my cooking. When we’re together with the team for lunch it’s very typically Italian, so for myself in the evening I cook my own sort of stuff, a bit of shepherds pie, a few stews, bring it back Irish, lots of variety”

It’s difficult these days not to bring the whole pandemic side of things into any conversation, and as I said it’s part and parcel of the game now, and something that is a constant threat, is it a big worry? “Yes and no, obviously when a lot of cases became apparent, even just last week and on the football side of things especially in the men’s league and after the international break. It got everyone, not worried, but I suppose a little bit concerned, but you’ve always got to be on high alert anyway. I think it was maybe another good reminder to be honest, that it’s still around, we did hit a kind of, not normality, but everyone, in every country got a little complacent. For your own peace of mind it was good to forget, I was still going to restaurants and cafes but still being as diligent as I could. For some people, it’s when drink is involved or you haven’t seen someone in a long time, it’s all the hugging and the closeness”

Which means, like most of us living away from our home country, it hasn’t been possible for her to get back to Ireland since making the move to Florence “I haven’t been there since June so yeah I’m really missing home at the moment” Louise should get back there soon, for the final Euro qualifier in Dublin against Germany at the start of December “Exactly, I’m literally living for that game now, just to get home. I probably won’t even get to really see anyone but even just to be back in Ireland for a week, it will give me that energy back, I already know it will make me come back reenergized”

We did need to speak about the unlucky recent defeat of the Irish team in Ukraine, when just needing a draw to guarantee a play-off spot for the Euro’s, they lost out through an own goal and also missed a penalty “Incredibly disappointing, we really, really just thought it was our time, and just nothing, it just wasn’t happening for us. Luck wasn’t on our side and we just couldn’t make that break through” Speaking about that own goal and penalty miss and the players involved “Those players, the quality, Áine O’Gorman is just fantastic and our most capped player and nothing like that has ever happened in her career, and Katie McCabe is ridiculously talented and a brilliant penalty taker and it hit the crossbar. Frustration crept in and just not being able to score, but it was one of those games where I really felt it, I wasn’t getting stressed, I don’t think any of us were. We went in at half-time and there wasn’t really much to say apart from to keep going. We were doing the right things, I actually thought we played quite well, we can definitely be critical of some things, but overall we didn’t play badly and we were keeping possession well at times, sometimes rushing it to be honest but it was never going to be perfect anyway, we still in general have to work on that quite a bit, so for me there were definitely some good stages, just gutted about it”

But as we mentioned, there is still that game with an already qualified Germany in Dublin “What’s the point of us being there if we’re just going to give up on it, so it’s absolutely still there and with all we’ve learned, football is very cruel and crazy things can happen and hopefully the same can happen for us against Germany, we have to go for it”

While we’re all stuck at home having to watch our football from the sofa, how is it for the players with no fans at the games? “You definitely miss it, but I think we’ve adapted quite quickly. Sometimes it’s not irregular, when we play some of those international games there wouldn’t always be too much of a crowd, or for some of the cup games, when I played with Arsenal, at times there wouldn’t be a massive crowd. Even when there are supporters there, it can still be just quite a nice atmosphere really, it’s not constant chanting like what you see and hear at the men’s games. It’s been a bit strange, it can be quite echoey and quiet a lot of the time, you can hear your own voice and hear the manager’s voice, sometimes too much!”

It’s also the same for us watching on TV “It’s actually very interesting I find, hearing the men’s teams, and also when I was watching the rugby last week, I found that fascinating. I was watching Ireland against France and loved hearing what they were saying, I really enjoyed that. You’re also hearing who the more vocal players are in the men’s game which is quite interesting”

Nowadays it’s probably a little easier for young girls who want to get into football but when Louise was just a kid growing up in Blessington, she didn’t have a girl’s team to join, although when you’re that young maybe you don’t even think about it “ When I was about six years old, my best friend was mad into football and his Dad was the coach of the Blessington Boys Under 6 team and that was it, I just naturally went in, at that stage to me I was just playing football with my pals”

Louise was the only girl at the club at the time, until a few more joined later on “There was a girl’s team formed, Lakeside, from there I was able to get to Peamount United when I was around 12 or 13 years old. I was with them for almost 10 years” Peamount were then, and still are one of the top women’s clubs in Ireland “At that stage definitely, they had great under-age teams, just a really good structure. It was just 20 minutes from home, for me it was the perfect place to be and I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else to be honest”

Louise had spent the previous evening watching her old team from Dublin take on Glasgow City in the Champions League, where sadly after a brave battling performance they lost out in a penalty shoot-out “I was loving it, I thought they really, really did well and were just so unlucky not to get a goal in the first half and just really frustrated Glasgow. I don’t think Glasgow were at their best and I really think part of it was down to them being maybe a little bit complacent, but for me Peamount just frustrated them. The girls literally ran for 120 minutes, I think a couple of them at stages did suffer with cramp and I’m not surprised because they gave it absolutely everything and then the cruelty of penalties. But for me, I hadn’t seen them play in a while, it was just fantastic to see how well they played, they really did themselves justice and it would have been great if they had got something from it but it was still fantastic to see. This is the strongest squad they’ve had in a long time and there’s just a couple of games left in the season so they’ll be looking to get themselves back into the Champions League again I’m sure”

Louise was an important member of the Peamount team back in 2011/12 when they competed in the Champions League for the first time. Back then Louise was actually a midfielder, and in fact scored a hat-trick when her team had a 7-0 win over Slovenian side Krka. They went on to qualify from their group to make it to the knock-out stages, losing out to PSG.

I’m not sure if Louise had actually realised that she has played in the Champions League with all her club sides, from Peamount in Dublin, to Swedish side Eskilstuna United, Arsenal and now Fiorentina who will take part in this years competition when it reaches the last 32. “That’s a great stat actually, I hadn’t thought of it in that way”

When Louise joined the Swedish club, they were still playing in the second division “The most random place I could have gone to I’d say, not even Swedish people had heard of Eskilstuna at the time. In my first season there we got promoted and then had a great season after that, finishing around mid-table in the Damallsvenskan, and then had the season of our lives the next year and really should have won the league to be honest. We came second by just a point, but getting into the Champions League was incredible. So just to be a part of that club and the growth, going from the second division to the Champions League in 3 years, then playing against Glasgow City and Wolfsburg, I just really, really enjoyed my time there”

How professional was Swedish football back then? “It was pretty much fully professional, or at least the majority of it was. There were some players that were still studying or had a small part-time job, but we trained as full-time professionals and for a good chunk of the players, for us it was fully professional, that was our only job”

Anyone that follows women’s football in Italy will know that they’re not quite at the professional stage yet, still waiting on a government act to allow female athletes in the country to actually be professional “It’s maybe going properly professional next year but we’re training like full-time professionals I can tell you that. We have one day off and one of the days we have gym work but it’s very intense, I haven’t trained this much in I don’t know how long. Just trying to adapt to that Italian way, but it’s very interesting, I’m really enjoying trying to learn”

Speaking of learning, how is your progress with the language going? “It’s slowly, slowly getting there. They found it hard to organise the lessons for us because of Covid so we didn’t get going until the end of September. I’ve only actually been doing it for about 6 weeks now but I was trying to just listen to every conversation, even though I really don’t know what’s going on at times and the girls are laughing at me, but I’m just trying to understand”

How does it compare with trying to learn Swedish? “In general just trying to learn Italian is easier because you’re fully immersed, whereas in Sweden you could really speak a lot of English to a lot of people, in any shops or anything like that they loved the thought of trying to speak English, so I became complacent. Also the coach, he took the training sessions in English for 3 out of the 4 years I was there, so I was spoiled.

What about now with your new manager at Fiorentina, Antonio Cincotta? “For me it seems he’s just talking Italian, but the girls say he does speak quite a bit of English, but to me anyway, it’s a very quick explanation, it’s definitely all in Italian and then a quick breakdown in English”

Anyone who has seen Ireland play will know just how committed Louise is to the green jersey, but that’s not where her patriotism ends “I am terrible at languages, as in I was exempt in school from having to study them because of a form of dyslexia, even English I’m terrible at” Now, in Ireland we are all forced to study Irish, and a lot of people end up resenting the language because of this, but what if someone is given the choice, like Louise had “Technically I didn’t have to do Irish for the Leaving Cert exam but I was too patriotic for that, if there was one thing I wanted to do it was keep Irish on, and drop French thankfully!” (Apologies to all our readers in France)

As we all know, football everywhere came to a halt back in March, but while most of the men’s top leagues would re-start, certainly both in Italy and England, for the women it was not to be “I think now they’ve invested a lot of money to keep it going, and thinking back obviously it was very disappointing for it not to get up and running again, but I feel like they knew that for such a long time and they should have just made the decision, that was the most frustrating thing. There was really no hope of them getting the league up and going again so the waiting was probably the worst bit. I was almost happy they didn’t re-start in the end because at that stage it was the middle of May and the mental strain was just too much. Each week you were just waiting for that update because they kept saying, oh there’s going to be an update and then it was like, oh they still haven’t done anything, oh they’re trying this so they’re going to have to wait and see. You could see the men’s game was getting going and we weren’t even close, there was no sign of us even getting back into the training ground, so incredibly disappointing. At the start they didn’t really show ambition to get it done because obviously it was happening in Germany, but at the same time everything was a learning process, so it’s hard to put blame on someone”

All of this meant no football, no training, since March and then by June Louise would find herself without a club, after her contract at Arsenal had ended. Luckily it wasn’t too long before Fiorentina came calling “Some time in June it came around, so there was a couple of weeks waiting at least, but it was just nice then to finally get a plan in place and start getting that structure of life back. It was really tough not playing or training and then not getting a contract with Arsenal, it really just felt up in the air, I really didn’t know what was going to happen. But thankfully then this came around I saw it as a great opportunity. We played Fiorentina in the Champions League that season and even though the aggregate score (6-0) didn’t do it justice, but especially the first game I was really impressed with the team. I think it was 2-0 at half-time, but even in the dressing room talking to the girls I said “do not get complacent here, this team are ready to go, they have some really strong players” they played quite a bit of counter attacking football but did it really well, extremely fast, so it was good to see them play”

The club offered Louise a one year contract “I think at the time it was probably more down to covid than anything else, everything is so unpredictable, so hopefully things can keep going in the league and it won’t restrict us again”

So after not getting as much game time as she would have liked in that final season with Arsenal, here Louise has been a permanent fixture in the Fiorentina defence, so the chances of a new contract must be good “Hopefully, it’s still a lot of adapting, I’m still learning so, so much and trying to learn, it’s very much just a different style of football and how you approach it. Also the sort of strikers that you play against, so I still feel like I’m trying to settle in a bit more and really trying to take it all in and obviously trying to learn the Fiorentina way but it’s great to try and be as consistent as I can, get games and minutes but there’s a very talented squad and thankfully there’s plenty of options for all positions, competition, and for us it’s just trying to get that flow”

Fiorentina got off to a great start, winning their first three league games, but have since lost the last three “Obviously we’ve had a couple of tough games but at that stage we had only played 5 or 6 games together, that’s how crazy it was. We were very unlucky in pre-season not to play, we only played 1 out of 3 friendly games that we were supposed to play. I think that to have those extra games under our belt, it really would have changed things for us. We had a great start but sometimes when you start playing some of the better teams you get a little bit exposed. We’re trying to learn about each other but unfortunately we’re trying to learn during the league, whereas in pre-season is when you should really get to start to know each other and know how you play so that was difficult, so while we have to be hard on ourselves about some performances or maybe as individuals look at yourself, but also not to be so hard on each other, there are a lot of new faces and such a short time together. There’s still such a long way to go and even making that comeback from covid, not doing team training for 5 or 6 months, is extremely tough on the body and on the mind, so it’s all a learning curve”

Another thing Louise has already learned is that it can be easier to get a red card in Italy, as happened very early in our game against Juventus “She went down like a sack of potatoes to be honest, I barely caught her on the arm and she went down, whereas you would do that in England and they would enjoy the battle, they’d just brush me off and go through. So it was extremely disappointing, I really felt like I let the team down that day but that was a big lesson learned for me, and it was definitely also a big welcome to Italy. It was just unfortunate it was in that game, a massive game for us and the club, but then just watching the girls do what they did. I know it ended up 4-0 but to me they still covered every blade of grass and tried covering each other and trying to cover for me, not great but that’s football, those are the chances you take as a defender. You just have to move on”

I wondered was Louise aware of the rivalry between Fiorentina and Juventus, or did her new team-mates let her know “It would have been something I would have known about even before coming here. There are still plenty of games to go, we just have to pick ourselves up and keep building to be one of the best teams in the league. I think that the set up and structure Juventus have is excellent, they’ve really put a lot of emphasis on the team. We’ve got to pick ourselves up and get ourselves in that place again”

They certainly took a good step on the road back to where they were in last weekends 6-1 Coppa Italia win away to Serie B side Riozzese, a real confidence booster surely “That game was really important to us actually. It was important for us to find our flow again, important for players to get minutes back under the belt, especially after the international break as well it was good just to get back and to start playing. For me it was a really enjoyable game in the way that we were able to experiment a little bit, just kind of find our feet again which was really important”

So how is Louise finding her feet in Florence, her new home, has she had much of a chance to explore “I’ve had a good look around it, obviously disappointed now that all the museums are closed, even though I’m not a massive museum person but I still had things to see, to tick off my little bucket-list. But I really enjoy going into the city and just exploring the food places and the cafes, I’m a massive, massive coffee fan so I’ve been exploring all the different places”

What about getting around the city, to training “I cycle everywhere, to get to training it’s about 15 minutes, maybe not the most ideal weather for it at the moment, but I was very used to that from Sweden. I’m living very central, pretty much to everything, to the centro sportivo, to training in San Marcellino, to get into the city. There are a couple of the girls that drive by so if the weather is really bad I can hop in with them”

What about the club itself, the plans for the new Centro Sportivo which will be available to both the men’s and women’s teams, and has she had a chance to meet the owner, Rocco Commisso “It looks incredible, but unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to meet Rocco yet, I think some of the girls saw him when I was away on international duty, and he was at one of our games. I have seen Joe Barone quite a bit though, and he’s great to have a chat with and a really, really nice guy as well”

Did Louise know much about the players she would be playing alongside and against when she came to Serie A “A little bit, I was doing some TV punditry for the last World Cup and obviously Italy had a fantastic tournament, and for me they were actually one of my favourite teams, so you get to know some players, and now that I’m here I can recognise those players again. With Ireland we also played against Italy before they went to that World Cup so I would have played against our own Daniela Sabatino”

So what players have impressed Louise so far, on her own team but also those she’s come up against “Obviously some of the Juventus girls are fantastic, Sassuolo also, I thought some of their movement was brilliant and the Maltese girl, very young girl (Haley Bugeja, only 16 years old and already with 4 goals in her 4 Serie A appearances). I’ve been very impressed with our own girls, Sabatino, I really enjoy watching what she does and the same with Tatiana Bonetti. There’s so much variety, but there’s still a lot for me to learn and a lot of players to learn about and figure out”

Which brings us to this weekends game, an early 12:30 kick-off on Saturday away to Roma, which means a training session in the morning on Friday before making their way to the capital to spend the night there before the match “I would know just a couple of them from playing against them, Andrine Hegerberg who played with Birmingham City and maybe played against her in Sweden too. She’s a very tidy player and loves to get on the ball and creates a lot. Obviously I know a good few of the Italian players. For me it’s important that we just concentrate on ourselves though, and not think too much into what their structure is”

After a poor run in the league, Fiorentina will be hoping to put things right this time “For us it’s going to be a really important game to just show a performance and if we can pick up some points there as well it will really put us back up where we deserve to be and where we should be”

At the moment Fiorentina are 9 points off leaders Juventus, but it is still early days “For me, there’s no point looking all the way up there, it’s just important for us to get some good performances. There’s still a lot to come, the Champions League too, it’s all very, very exciting stuff as well!”

There certainly is still a lot to look forward to this season, but one final quick look back on her time during lockdown, when Louise managed to get some rare time at home in Blessington “I live out by the lakes, ever since I’ve been away I’ve always appreciated Ireland and where I live. During lockdown I really got into cycling, I was cycling up to Valleymount, to Tulfarris, up through Lacken, I did that trek one of the days on a not so good bike. I really just miss that bit of the countryside”

Finally, a travel tip for when all this pandemic situation is over, and if any of you ever find yourselves in Ireland, and in County Wicklow especially “Murphy’s pub in Ballymore! I love Murphy’s, my best friend is from Ballymore, and you always get a good pint of Guinness there!”