‘Butterflies’ get Stephen Quinn pumped up for big occasion

Zlatan Ibrahimovic holds no fears for Stephen Quinn – just so long as the Swedish bogeyman doesn’t jump out at him from a wardrobe.

The Dubliner, who could be deployed in a bid to help cramp Ibra’s style in the Stade de France this evening, has been giving some insights into the childish high-jinks with which the Irish players are wont to relieve the boredom at their tournament base.

“The boys are trying to frighten me because they know I’m a bit on edge when I get frights,” said the affable Dubliner. “I just kind of get frights easily so they jump out on me. Shane Long is killing me! Silly old games to keep us entertained, and we get each other back and stuff. It’s just a bit of craic around the hotel to keep us occupied. We’re like big babies (laughs).”

Out on the pitch though, it’s a different matter, even if the 30-year-old Reading midfielder, a late developer as an international, knows he’s now on the brink of entering an arena peopled by some of the greatest players.

“I wouldn’t say I have doubts,” Quinn mused. “I’d have a few nerves or whatever, but you’ve got to believe in yourself when you’re going out on to the field. There’s no point in going out with a negative attitude. I crave that feeling of the nerves or the butterflies – it gives me that edge and it gets me pumped for games. Then once the game starts, they’re all gone. You need them to get the blood flowing. You just suck it up and get on with it. Once the ball kicks off, you’re in the zone.”

Following in the footsteps of his brother and former international Alan, the flame-haired younger Quinn now stands on the brink of going one better by playing in the European Championships.

“I speak to Alan every day,” he revealed. “Alan was really good friends with Robbie Keane growing up. They won the U18 championship together so they would be good mates. That’s why I’m so close to Robbie. Alan is constantly on the phone to me and having a bit of banter with Robbie. He’s coming over for the Italian game. He has everything booked and he is looking forward to it.

“I’ve got a massive chance now that only comes around once or twice in your career but it didn’t come for Alan. So I’m not going to take this lightly, I’m not going to let it bypass me. I’m 30 and I know that there might not be another tournament. I’m at the best place in my career, where I feel at my fittest and strongest, so I need to take this chance that has come. “

And if he does get the nod, tonight or at any stage in the tournament, from Martin O’Neill? “It will probably be the second proudest moment of my life after my kids being born,” Quinn beamed.

“It’s the pinnacle of my career. But there is no point in just being happy to be here; we want to progress. We’ve got a great chance with the way the format is and if we go in with belief, the team spirit that we have and the hard work, there is no reason why we can’t beat these teams.”

Frighting talk, you might say.

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