Sport can be a cruel mistress at the best of times. Between injuries, expectation, and heart-break, an athlete’s journey to immortality plays like a dramatic adventure novel full of twists and turns moreso than a video game that one can restart at the slightest bit of conflict.
Louise Quinn knows this all too well. Having plyed her early trade with Lakeside FC before moving onto Peamount United, Eskiltuna United, and then playing in front of a record 45,000 people in the FA Cup final while donning the colours of Arsenal, her journey to one of the top clubs in the history of English football was far from straightforward.
“It was a whirlwind,” she says, describing her brief time at Notts County. Mere months after making the move to the club that she will have hoped would have propelled her onto the promise lands of English top-flight football in November 2016, Quinn found herself without a team following the folding of the women’s set-up the following May.
“That was definitely something that I didn’t expect,” she told WicklowNews.
“We weren’t sure if they would be allowed to open the transfer window but, thankfully, that was able to happen. The timing was just right. Arsenal had a few injuries with their centre-backs so I was brought in. To be playing for such an historic club as Arsenal is something that I am extremely proud of.”
The 28-year-old Blessington-native landed on her feet and then some following her arrival at Arsenal. Since signing for the North Londoners in 2017, she has added the FA WSL Cup to her trophy case, which already included a second-tier league title during her time with Eskilstuna in Sweden.
It was during her stint in Sweden that Quinn become involved in promoting women’s sport, eventually being invited to become an ambassador for the 20×20 initiative.
“It was a role that I was put forward for by the FAI and Three. They knew it was something that I was extremely passionate about; to get people more involved with women’s sport.
“It was something that really came about when I was playing in Sweden for a few years. The involvement of the community in the team and the amount of young players that came to the club meant that we were able to open an all-girls academy during the school holiday.
“I really enjoyed seeing that change and wanted to bring that here. So much of our time and effort can be utilised to build the participation and media coverage and everything about the game. We don’t even need that much money at all, it is just people power and man hours and the amount of time that we can put in. I am extremely proud of my football career, but hopefully this is something that I can carry on during and after it.”
Throughout her time playing football, which has featured 72 caps for the Irish national team, Louise has endured many instances of ill-fortune when it comes to challenging for trophies. In 2008, she was part of the Peamount United team that lost to St. Francis’ in the FAI Cup Final. Fast forward 10 years, and she is lining out for Arsenal in an FA Cup Final defeat to Chelsea in front of a record-setting crowd of 45,423.
Even when she was a member of the Peamount squad that won the FAI Cup in 2010, she was unable to enjoy the festivities of the occasion herself due to being over 8,000km away, a disappointment that has spurred her on to fight for success with Arsenal.
“I was doing football coaching [on placement in America]. That was devastating. I think I was there up to the quarter-final so I was trying to make it home from California for the game, but it was never a possibility.
“Obviously all of these losses spur you on, but this is what I like about Arsenal. They are always gunning for these titles. We all know what needs to be done, and we are going to use past experiences to make sure not to feel that pain again. We are looking at each game like a cup final.”
This season, inspired by the misfortune of years gone by, Louise finds herself with an Arsenal team well-placed to claim the Women’s Super League title — the club’s first since 2012. Currently five points behind Manchester City with three games in hand, Louise believes that they can maintain their form for the final six games, despite the tough run-in.
“[The WSL] is our end goal, but we have to take each game as it comes. It is getting to that tough part of the season where it is the last six games and some teams will be playing their most relaxed games.
“They no longer have to fight to stay out of the relegation battle, but then the Champions League spots might have slipped away from them so they’ll probably be relaxed and enjoying their football. Playing a team in that kind of form can be really difficult.
“We’re not underestimating anyone.”
Arsenal’s push for the domestic crown continues on Thursday night, when they host sixth-place Bristol City, before taking on Liverpool (24/03) and Everton (21/04) in their other games in hand. Should they win at least one of those two games, Louise and her teammates will go into the run-in, which will include a final day clash against Manchester City on the 12th of May, knowing that their fate is firmly in their own hands.