For the love of the game | Louise Quinn
For Louise Quinn, playing football was inevitable. With her father a Gaelic football player, she admits that there ‘were a few footballs’ around the house and it was ‘natural’ that she started playing.
Whilst she participated in numerous sports, it was football Louise ‘gave everything to.’ After joining the local Under 6’s ‘boys’ side’, she was always encouraged to play by those around her, and although there may have been negative attitudes from ‘other teams’ at times, she always felt ‘part of the gang.’
Louise’s footballing journey started at Peamount United in her native Ireland. Alongside playing, Louise also completed a degree at the University College Dublin in Sports and Exercise Management, playing for the University and the national team.
It was upon completing her degree that she made the move to Sweden, playing for Eskilstuna United in the Swedish second division, and signed her first professional contract.
“When I got into the Irish team, some of the girls around me were playing for Arsenal, as well as in Europe, Sweden and Germany.
“My good friend on the team told me, just think you can do this you’re well capable of playing in Europe why don’t you?’ She just planted the seed.”
The Swedish league at the time was the pinnacle of the women’s game, and Louise moved to second division Eskilstuna. However, whilst making her dream of playing professional football a reality, Louise admits it was still extremely nerve-wracking.
“The club was just perfect for me. It was a massive community
team and everything we did was to try and build up crowds.”
“I started in the second division. In my head, I thought ‘Ok maybe starting in the second division is good for me’, as I had no idea if I was going to be able to do it.”
In hindsight, Louise recognises it was the perfect move at the time.
“The club was just perfect for me. It was a massive community team and everything we did was to try and build up crowds. It was really powerful and one of the most enjoyable things that I could have been a part of.”
Whilst in Sweden, Louise enjoyed promotion with Eskilstuna in her first season, finishing 7th in their first season in the first division and 2nd in the following year. Due to their successful campaign, the team competed in the Women’s Champions League, with Louise captaining the side.
However, even after enjoying all this success on the pitch as a professional, it was still a financial struggle as a female footballer. During the off season, Louise returned to Ireland and had to sign up for social welfare as her football contract did not include the summer months.
“It was brutal. It was a risk changing leagues,
knowing how strong the English League was,
and then getting so excited about the move
for it all to come crashing down.”
In addition to the financial struggles, Louise’s next move was met with more challenging circumstances.
After her successful stint on the continent, Louise headed back to the UK to join Notts County.
In theory, the move should have been perfect, but it threw Louise’s career into doubt. Soon, the excitement of moving back to the UK, securing a big move and joining a new team all came became a memory as Notts County placed the women’s side into liquidation.
“It was brutal. It was a risk changing leagues, knowing how strong the English League was, and then getting so excited about the move for it all to come crashing down.”
Louise is thankful that she was only there for a short time, as it did not allow her to get settled, but admits for some of her teammates who had built a life around their football career, it was a much more tumultuous time.
Whilst it could have proved to be an extremely difficult period, Louise quickly received an offer from Arsenal, a giant of the women’s game.
“The timing was perfect with Arsenal as there were a couple of injuries to the centre backs. I signed a very short-term contract, but thankfully left a bit of a mark.”
Now, two years on from joining Arsenal, Louise is a Women’s Super League winner, with Arsenal picking up the trophy last season.
“It was one of the best feelings, a little bit unbelievable. Not that it was unbelievable that it was Arsenal, but just that I was playing for Arsenal and [winning the league] with one of the most famous clubs in women’s football.”
Louise counts the title win as the biggest achievement of her career, but for her, success is more than just ‘on-the-field.’ As women’s football continues to rise, this summer’s World Cup has come at the perfect time.
“To see that women can make a living from
[playing football] is just the best thing.
I know I’ll be cursing myself in 10 years,
wishing I was born 10 years later”
“The English media and the English league are really setting the tone for every other country out there. England are definitely going to be up there again, getting to at least the semi-final, I think. Just hearing people talk, the perception is changing. It’s not the whole debate around [men’s vs women’s football] it’s just, ‘I was watching that game, it was class.’. It’s growing constantly.”
Whilst Ireland are not competing at the World Cup, Louise has racked up 73 caps in her international career and admits that ‘everything [she] does is for the Irish team.’
“I want to that mark of playing 100 times for my country and I’m just extremely proud to pull on the Jersey and run myself ragged for that team.”
Louise admits that the game is now in a much better place, having seen the constant progression throughout her career.
“To see that women can make a living from [playing football] is just the best thing. I know I’ll be cursing myself in 10 years, wishing I was born 10 years later, but to be one of those players that was, hopefully, making a pathway, especially for Irish girls, has been one of the most important things for me.”
“Women’s football is just purely for the love of the game.”
As well as covering the men’s 2018 World Cup, she is now covering the women’s World Cup for broadcaster RTE, and Louise’s main motivation is to keep women’s sport on the rise. Now, Louise is an ambassador for the 20 x 20 Campaign, which looks at improving women’s sport with ‘a 20% increase in media coverage of women in sport, 20% increase in female participation at all levels of sport and a 20% increase in attendance at women’s games and events’ by 2020.’
The slogan of the campaign is ‘if she can’t see it, she can’t be it’, highlighting the importance of bringing female role models to the forefront of the sporting world’s mind.
One example is the Irish women’s hockey team claiming a Silver medal at the 2018 World Cup as a massive catalyst for a change in attitude towards female sport in Ireland.
“Irish people are very good at supporting Irish people as long as they know it’s there.”
For Louise, her proudest achievement is becoming someone that is ‘trying to get girls involved and change the perception’ of women in sport.
“Women’s football is just purely for the love of the game. That’s why we’re doing it and that’s why we try to be the best, because no one’s making millions, it’s just purely just for the love of the game.”