Stephen Quinn thrilled with first start, hungry for more
Midfielder enjoying international football after a hectic few years
Stephen Quinn in training ahead of the Republic of Ireland’s friendly game against Portugal in New Jersey. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
When Stephen Quinn heads out to the Meadowlands late this afternoon for the Republic of Ireland’s friendly with Portugal, he couldn’t be certain if he would see any playing time. Martin O’Neill’s thorough rotation policy has kept everyone guessing but even if the Hull City man was to remain part of the audience, he won’t forget this whirlwind tour. He made his full international debut on the banks of the Delaware river in front of 6,000 people, not many of whom were wearing green. That didn’t make it any less special.
“Yeah it was a massive moment, I was very proud to achieve that,” the 28-year-old says of last Friday night’s game against Costa Rica.
“I have played five or six games now so it’s been great for me and my family. I have been itching for the start and I’m grateful to the manager for giving it to me. I’ve been working hard in training and hit the bar against Italy when I probably should have scored, so getting the 80-odd minutes under my belt is a massive bonus for me.”
Quinn’s profile has risen significantly in the first chapter of the O’Neill era and but for a few inches of wood he could have bagged a prestige goal against Italy in Craven Cottage. The manager, who likes to brief his players individually on the strengths and weaknesses of each performance, had a few words about taking chances.
“He definitely did when he spoke to me in training. I’d be my own worst critic anyway, I’ve watched the chance back a few times but I’ve got to move on from that.
“I should have scored but I actually caught it too cleanly. But that’s the way it goes, it was onwards and upwards to this game and I was glad to get the start and it was a good result in the end against a strong side going to the World Cup.”
For a footballer trying to break through, there can be a manic element to these compressed summer tours, with everyone trying to impress in limited minutes. There has been a reassuringly steady arc of progression to Quinn’s career, with his full international debut coming a full decade after his League of Ireland debut for St Patrick’s Athletic and his Premier League season featured that remarkable and – for Hull fans – heartbreaking FA Cup final against Arsenal.
“Oh it’s been mental, yeah. It’s been a mental last couple of years for me really, playing for Hull and getting promoted and then staying up in the Premier League, which was the main thing,”
But now that Quinn has argued his case at international level, he wants to take his chance.
“This is it: there’s a lot of new players making their debuts, me included with my full debut, and all I can do is try to catch the manager’s eye. He played me out on the left against Costa Rica and told me to drift in and out.”
An injury to Marc Wilson forced an emergency switch on O’Neill, who dropped James McClean is at left back, which placed a defensive onus on Quinn also.
“Yeah maybe so, he was very good on the ball and James is not a left back but he stuck in there very well, to be fair to him. Obviously I had to go back and help him out which obviously took away from us going forward but Jamesie played well. With them down to 10 men, maybe we should have kept the ball a bit better but like I said the heat and humidity played a part.”
Critically, he did get forward to win Robbie Keane’s saved penalty – “I think I just nicked in ahead of him, my shoulder got across the defender and he came across with his arm and shoved me.”
The penalty was saved and the evening ended with another draw but Quinn is convinced that the team is travelling in the right direction towards the European qualifiers.
“We’re trying things out and maybe the results aren’t the most important thing. Obviously that will change when the Euros come around and we have to start winning matches.
“But for these friendlies, and especially coming away to America, it’s about bonding and gelling the new faces together and the team together which has happened. The lads are getting on really well and you’ll see us start to blossom.”