Christmas comes early for mighty Quinn

GOLF addict Niall Quinn describes the atmosphere at Adare Manor for the JP McManus Pro-Am as being “like Christmas time for adults”.

The former Arsenal, Manchester City, Sunderland and Republic of Ireland striker is taking time out from his responsibilities as Black Cats chairman and his interest in the World Cup to refocus on his golf over the next couple of days.

He plays with Ryder Cup star Paul Casey in the Pro-Am this afternoon before displaying his talents in partnership with the talented Swede Alexander Noren tomorrow.

A key member of Ireland’s challenge at the finals in Italy in 1990 and Japan/Korea 12 years later, Quinn backed Germany at 12/1 before a ball was kicked in anger in South Africa.

For that reason alone, he was happy with the outcome while not seeing it as proof that the English game is currently tumbling into an abyss predicted for it by many pundits.

“That’s a hindsight overview,’’ he said. “What struck me this time was the anxiety on the England players’ faces when they played that first game.

“I saw Peter Crouch coming on as a sub with 15 minutes to go and the tension in his face and in his neck, he looked frightened to death.

“But it wasn’t just that. I don’t think it has anything to do with the Premier League. Whether it was pressure, whether it was media – they’ll throw loads of things in. But if Peter Crouch was coming on in a Premier League match he would be high fiving the guy who came off, he’d have a smile on his face and would win every ball. So there was tension in the air.

“I don’t know what created it, whether it was their own fault by telling everyone they were going to win it, or whether it was the media’s fault or what have you!.”

Apart from the McManus pro-am, Quinn’s concentration these days is on getting Sunderland fully prepared for the new Premier League season. He regards strengthening a defence that leaked too many soft goals last year as all-important and is also looking forward to playing their first match at Thomond Park on July 13 for a game in aid of the Shane Geoghegan Trust.

“It’s amazing to see the Geoghegan family, how committed they are to turning a tragic circumstance into a positive, so we’re happy to have our team over,’’ said Quinn. “It will be our proper team, everyone will be there and what I like about it is that the Trust have gone and got young people and kids in clubs to go to the game.’’

And, finally, back to the golf again. Surely a man who has played football at the highest level for club and country in front of close on 100,000 people wouldn’t be nervous teeing it up in the pro-am? Clearly, however, nothing could be further from the truth and Quinn provided a lovely comparison to prove his point.

“In 1999, I took a penalty in the play-offs for a place in the Premiership against Charlton in front of around 88,000 people at Wembley and never felt anything,” he said.

“I scored my penalty. We lost and I never felt any nerves at all in an amazing game that finished 4-4. But put 20 looking over a railing here today and it’s different. If I had a putt on the 18th in front of the kind of galleries that will be here, a putt to make a difference to my team, I don’t how I’d feel. I dream about moments like that, like doing it in the British Open, and then I’d wake up. Hopefully, I’ll be in a position to do something like that.

“Playing with Paul Casey is a great thrill and also John Hegarty, the very famous heart surgeon, and Gaynor Rupert, the wife of Johann, the head of Dunhill. Paul plays with a smile on his face and so I’m really looking forward to linking up with him. The atmosphere here is fantastic, you come down here and it’s like Christmas time for adults, it’s like we’re all eight or nine years of age. The buzz around the village and then there’s JP, what can you say, he’s an extraordinary man.”

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