Under new management, boasting no shortage of talent and with three points already on the board, Ireland’s senior women’s team have never been better placed to make history by qualifying for the Euro 2021 finals in England.
That’s according to the experienced Louise Quinn — but the Arsenal defender would hardly have felt confident about giving such an upbeat assessment as recently as the end of June, when the Irish camp was rocked by the announcement that manager Colin Bell was leaving to take up a position at Huddersfield Town.
“Was I frustrated? Absolutely,” says Quinn. “Disappointed in the situation and unsure — it really did happen very fast. But that’s it, this group has been through a lot. It was another one of those ‘Ah right, yeah, we’ll take that one on the chin and go again’.”
What happened at the beginning of this month was, perhaps, no less sudden and surprising than Bell’s exit — but in a much more positive way — with the players only learning of the appointment as their new boss of former Holland, Scotland, Russia and South Africa manager Vera Pauw after the final whistle of their opening qualifying win against Montenegro in Tallaght.
For Quinn, it’s a hugely reassuring development.
“The FAI took their time and for the right reasons,” she says. “They were updating us on that, not the candidates, but just if they had another batch of interviews or if they felt there were others (they should consider).
“And Vera is what you want to see, in terms of where she has taken teams. The Dutch players in Arsenal say that she was a massive stepping stone to where they are now from the work she did.”
Quinn also warmly welcomes the appointment of Eileen Gleeson as Vera’s assistant.
“It keeps everything kind of stable. A lot of players have played under her and know what she is doing in the Irish game. It’s a positive appointment.”
But the real source of Quinn’s optimism about the immediate future lies in the quality she sees around her in the Irish dressing room.
“It’s actually just because of the bunch of players we have — it’s the best place we’ve ever been in,” she says.
“We’re fit, we’re playing professionally as a whole — even the ones that don’t have that opportunity right now in Ireland, you can see that they’ve stepped up their training and are so committed to changing their lifestyle and wanting to qualify for tournaments and, hopefully, even play professionally, if that’s what they want to do. So in terms of the players we have in place, for me this is the best we’ve been.”
Germany, having scored 18 goals in two games, are already more than living up to billing as Group 1’s hot favourites, but Quinn believes that Ireland — whose next game is a crunch home match against Ukraine — need fear no team.
“We are going into this group wanting to win it and ultimately, qualify,” she says.
“And I don’t think the Germans like playing us now either.
"I have a couple of Germany teammates and they know that we have a bit about us, they know that we are really good defensively and that we have really improved in our attacking phase of play with so many girls in the English league. They see the talent we have there.”
As part of the 20x20 movement, the FAI are hoping to see a record attendance for a women’s game for Ireland v Ukraine on October 8 in Tallaght Stadium, beating the crowd of just over 4,000 who saw the Irish host their Dutch counterparts there in the last World Cup qualifying campaign.
Tickets are now available to buy here.