Open, charismatic, and jovial, Niall Quinn opens his speech with a phrase that shapes his narrative: “As a footballer and especially as an ex-footballer at 50 years of age, I still like a pat on the back. So that’s why I’m here, to get a much enjoyed pat on the back.”
Quinn was introduced by the ILCC’s Geoff Thompson, who reeled off the incredible number of games played and goals scored during his career. Premier and Football Leagues combined, Quinn has played around 500 games and scored more than 140 goals, competing at both national and international levels: one UEFA European Football Championship in 1988 and two FIFA World Cups in 1990 and 2002.
An apt storyteller, Quinn proceeds in telling the tale of his life and success. Frequent jokes and laughter define his subsequent account, as he weaves through the people and events that shaped his path. “I kept my footballing from my dad for three years because he was so focused on my career in hurling”, he laughs. “My mum used to make me promise not to tell him.”
“I learnt my trade in Arsenal, became a footballer in Man City but I fell in love with Sunderland.”
Throughout his story, Quinn highlights the part fortune played in his career, but, more importantly, the recognition and support from others. “Pat Rice, for example: he saw something in me, he worked on me and gave me confidence”, Quinn tells the Irish chamber.
He recounts how his stalling Arsenal career sent him he pushing for a transfer to Manchester City, and was about to sign to Thailand before he went to Sunderland. Of the three clubs, Quinn notes: “I learnt my trade in Arsenal, became a footballer in Man City but I fell in love with Sunderland.”
During his interview with Thompson, and in response to questions from the public, Quinn talks about the change in club culture, the infamous Saipan incident, the origin of “Niall Quinn’s Disco Pants” and his To Catch A Falling Star initiative.
“No one prepares you for it.”
From the new fitness culture to the fierce magnetism of Roy Keane, a drunken brawl with a fellow player and dancing in DIY cut-offs in Penola, one of the most important messages Quinn has to impart concerns preparing sportspeople for their inevitable departure from stardom.
Quinn says: “Everything, all the adulation, the training, the lifestyle, it all just gets suddenly switched off. No one prepares you for it. I really struggled in my day, and footballers now have celebrity status. We need to reassure and support them, educate the partners and family. Many footballers I know end up alcoholics, divorced and bankrupt. We need to do something.”
Correction: An incorrect date for the event was published in a previous version of this article.