At the end of a typically insightful sitting with Louise Quinn, the topic of 30-something female athletes is broached.
The narrative around Liverpool’s hesitancy to rip up their carefully manicured wage structure to pay 29-year-old Mo Salah his increasing worth is the top end of the scale. At the very bottom are comparatively miniscule payments that female footballers receive.
Ergo, it matters to their present livelihood as opposed to the wealth Salah’s great-grandchildren can expect to inherit.
“That just kind of seems to be the football world,” Quinn replied to suggestions of prejudice when a player turns 30. “I really don’t think about it too much. And if it comes up you make a good joke.”
The joke manages to incorporate the FAI’s newest sponsor.
People think that because we're women, we have to go have the babies and do all that. There is still that prejudice about it
"Even my friends were calling me 'Tiffin' the other day with the Cadbury's thing because it is an old classic bar. They were 'you're a Tiffin now' and I was 'but I love a Star Bar!'"
There is a presumption about female athletes of a certain age, an expectation almost, shattered by a pregnant Serena Williams winning the Australian Open in 2017, that Quinn also refuses to accept.
“People think that because we’re women, we have to go have the babies and do all that. There is still that prejudice about it. Whereas, I’m here to do a job, I feel fit, I feel good and that’s it.
“But that’s something again you want to change in the game. You still even do hear it in men’s football when they’re in their early 30s. It’s how you feel, if you’re still performing, it doesn’t matter.”
On the evidence of Quinn's defensive solidity and thumping headed goal to see off Australia, at 31, the Birmingham City centre half remains at the peak of her powers.
“Technically on paper, and as life goes on, I am getting older. That is, you know, that is the way. As soon as I turned 30, in an interview it was ‘you’re getting on a bit’ and I was ‘am I?’ but I still feel good.
“For me that’s why I wanted to come back into the WSL and play at the highest level. To get the most of myself. So far that’s working. And I tell the young ones to catch up to be honest.”
Quinn has seen it all, in particular how a powerhouse (female) football nation operates from her three seasons at Eskilstuna United.
"Sweden was the start of my professional career, I went into the unknown," she remembers of the move from Peamount United in 2013. "It taught me how to be a professional, how to prepare and how to eat. And I remember after coming back, I always had been fit but never as athletic as I had wanted to be. And that had changed from being in Sweden. That was the lifestyle and I learned so much and carried that forward.
It definitely shaped me in terms of how I look at things and how they build at club level
“Their league set-up is so professional. Even as kids, they are in the gym doing the basics and that gives a base of strength and nutrition. One of their classes we coached was football, we were coaching 13-, 14-, 15-year-olds and they’re getting graded for that in school. How can you not get motivated by that and enjoy it?”
Football as PE sounds so obvious for a genuine government-led sporting nation.
“It’s not even PE, it’s a class,” Quinn corrects. “Some would go play hockey, Olympic handball. Thankfully I didn’t have to grade them. There are classes to back that up. Everything is based around that.
"It definitely shaped me in terms of how I look at things and how they build at club level. I constantly talk about it and you'd love to see it more from clubs in Ireland."
Quinn moves into the territory of the GAA club.
“Stuff that doesn’t have to involve money. Just a lot of time and effort. We had a schedule for the stuff we needed to do around the town. Oh my God I was doing stuff weekly.
“I judged a Bake Off in the middle of the city one day and dressed as a banana because it was for Fair Trade. The town got to know you and love you and trusted you and we’d get crowds and crowds of people [at games]. For me that was so special and so simple, giving your own personal time and the club would run it.”
Down to the serious question: what cake won?
“Definitely one with a lot of icing. I had to taste them all.”
Any visuals of the banana costume?
“There is a picture but you can’t find it.”
The follow up is to effectively ask Quinn to preview tonight’s opening World Cup qualifier against the Olympic silver medallist.
“Am I doing your job for you?”
When you watch them you think 'yeah, this is grand' but you don't notice their physicality and speed until you play against them
“They have kept a really similar squad for a lot of the way through, built up from youth players, but for me, it is their organisation. They can probably make a lot of passes with their eyes closed to be honest. They just know where they’re going to be, even if they get in a sticky situation, they know where to pass it and who is going to be there or at least someone should be there.
“So if they pass into an area, it is probably the player who should have been there that gets in trouble.
“They can just play these games so it is a case of can we figure it out and stop it? When you watch them you think ‘yeah, this is grand’ but you don’t notice their physicality and speed until you play against them.
"It is going to be a full 95 or 96 minutes where you cannot switch off because they have that kind of togetherness as a team. Individually, the likes of [Fridolina] Rolfo, [Stina] Blackstenius, or [Olivia] Schough will just run you silly, they're massively experienced players. Magdalena Eriksson, who is running amok with Chelsea, is a massive player.
“I would have played against Blackstenius when she was 18 and she was shoving me off the ball. She’s almost as tall as me and maybe you don’t see that when you’re looking but you see her in person playing against her. That is definitely something they have, they just know what they’re doing. Ask them their identity, it’s at the top of their fingers.”
Parking the bus is no longer enough for this Ireland team.
“I think we’re getting to a stage where we’ve figured out our strengths. And how to do utilise them. We know defensively how we’re setting up, how to use the ball, where’s the outlet, where is this, that and the other, is it over the top with a nice controlled ball, not just a kick it long, which again, I think you can see we can do.
"Even in the [3-2 win over Australia] Heather Payne, her runs were just incredibly intelligent.
“It’s then bringing those little pieces together and I think we’ve really started to click.”