‘Our marriage definitely suffered’, says Gillian Quinn, wife of Niall, on life post-soccer

Experience of soccer star husband’s retirement prompts Quinn’s PhD research

Niall Quinn (55) was one of Ireland’s most famous players during the glory Jack Charlton era. Photograph: Inpho

Niall Quinn (55) was one of Ireland’s most famous players during the glory Jack Charlton era. Photograph: Inpho

 

Gillian Quinn has opened up about how she and her football star husband Niall struggled with their relationship after he retired from the game.

“Our marriage definitely suffered as a result,” said Ms Quinn whose experience has prompted her to begin PhD research into the effects of retirement in the game.

Niall Quinn (55) was one of Ireland’s most famous players during the glory Jack Charlton era, and enjoyed a successful English club career at both Arsenal and Manchester City. More recently he stood in as interim deputy chief executive at the besieged Football Association of Ireland (FAI).

However, while always viewed as a success story, his wife Gillian told RTÉ’s Drivetime that they went through a turbulent time in the aftermath of his playing career.

“Niall struggled a bit,” she said of the time. “I wouldn’t go so far as to say he had depression but given the stoicism of footballers and sportspeople in general not to show any weakness, he wasn’t really opening up to me about it.”

She explained how he had been missing his team mates and lost his sense of identity, problems he had internalised.

“Because of that we fought a lot and we struggled for a good period of time.”

It was only when Niall began working for Sky Television and at Sunderland Football Club that the couple began to hear about people they knew getting divorced.

Gillian is now studying the phenomenon at doctoral level. One third of marriages break down within a year of a football player’s retirement, rising to more than 70 per cent after three years.

“My research is really just to try and get to the bottom of this and find out what are the contributing factors to this marital breakdown and try and present some evidence on it so that we can prepare players.”