FWA Q&A

FWA Q&A: PHILIP QUINN

PHILIP QUINN, football correspondent of the Irish Daily Mail, on meeting himself…why a football writer was Man of the Match in Paris…and bunged up for a week at the Tour de France

Have you ever worked in a profession other than football?
No. Signed on as a freelance aged 17 in 1979 with the Evening Herald armed with notebook, pen, wide-eyed wonder and, crucially, a copy of the Dublin bus timetables. Nearly 35 years on, the wonder has never left me.

Most memorable match?
The Champions League final of 1999, even if the frantic rewrite, followed by city edition overhaul, meant myself and Paul Hyland (Evening Herald)turned the lights off at the Nou Camp.

The one moment in football you would put on a DVD?
The Carlos Alberto goal in the 1970 World Cup final for Brazil. It had everything, intuitive teamwork, superb skill and a thunderous finish. It was joyously re-lived on Daytona Beach before the 1994 World Cup finals by myself, Paul Lennon (Irish Daily Star) and Gerry Thornley (Irish Times).Gerry, needless to say, played Pele.

Best stadium?
For history, Wembley. For sheer wow factor, the old Giants Stadium in New Jersey.

…and the worst?
Gortakeegan, home of Monaghan United, was an unpopular venue on the League of Ireland beat. The press box was on the open side of the pitch, flanked by a boggy field. More than once, bovine spectators ambled over for a mooch.

Your personal new-tech disaster? 
In Lithuania for a World Cup qualifier in the early 90’s, I didn’t save my match report on the computer and had to phone the copy in. Safe to say, not many Lithuanians got a mention. In the World Cup play-off in Paris in 2009, I thought I’d lost my copy at the final whistle. Paul Hyland tracked it down under the X-Files section, stuck it on a memory stick and sent it to the Irish Daily Mail for me. He was my Man of the Match that night.

Biggest mistake?
There’s been a few. When Mick McCarthy got the Irish manager’s job in 1996, the Irish Independent generously agreed I should go with him to Malta to see Russia play – Mick’s first game was against the Russians. I got as far as London, without a passport.  My colleagues, concealing mirth, flew on to the sunny Med without me.

In a conscientious mood, I once went to see Irish U21’s play in Jerez in 1993, while most of my colleagues stayed in our hotel in Seville 50 miles away to follow the game on TV over a beer. I sneered at their lack of professionalism. Ireland lost 3-1 and I got the Irish scorer wrong.

Have you ever been mistaken for anyone else?
At the FAI internationals awards dinner one year, I offered my hand to the man sitting opposite me. ‘Philip Quinn,’ I said. ‘Philip Quinn,’ came the reply. It was the dad of Barry Quinn, former Irish midfielder. I was gobsmacked. Being a baldy, I’ve been regularly slagged as Lombardo, after Attilo Lombardo, who could play a bit.

Most media friendly manager?
For the Republic of Ireland, Mick McCarthy was very giving of his time while Brian Kerr, in the mood, was the most insightful. As Reading manager Brian McDermott graciously returns my calls, he is the current No 1.

Best ever player? 
Pele, followed by Johann Cruyff. Lionel Messi is a cut above everyone else right now.

Best ever teams (club and international)?
As a kid, I grew up idolising the sky blue shirts of Manchester City. The team of Summerbee, Bell, Lee, under Tony Book’s captaincy and Joe Mercer’s management, remains my favourite, even if I suspect the current Barcelona side would, alas, pass them off the park.

The Dutch team of 74-78 were wondrous, as was Brazil in 82, but they faltered as World Cup glory beckoned, unlike the current Spanish side.

Best pre-match grub? 
Wembley, prior to 2009 FA Cup final, was exceedingly fine fare.

Best meal had on your travels?
It’s more the company I recall. If Roy Curtis (Sunday World) is at your table, things are always lively, no matter what’s being served. For a bet, Paul Hyland once put away a 28-ounce porterhouse steak in Orlando in the 94 World Cup, lying prostrate on a bench outside between gulps to get the job done. What a pro.

…and the worst?
I once had constipation for over a week in the Tour de France, which left me so bunged up I was unable to tuck in at night. It became a talking point to the extent that Sean Kelly got off his bike after seven hours of toil one day and asked ‘did Quinn make a s**t?’ In Lourdes, appropriately enough, the miracle happened.

Best hotel stayed in? 
One year on the Tour de France, myself and Jim McArdle (Irish Times) found ourselves billeted in a team hotel where we were joined for breakfast by Greg Lemond. Asking the three-time Tour winner and world champion to pass the croissants was a thrill.

…and the worst?
Apols to London, but I re-named a Best Western Hotel near Paddington which I stayed in all too frequently as the Worst Eastern. A working phone box would have been more agreeable.

Favourite football writer?
I hugely enjoyed Jonathan Wilson’s book ‘Behind The Curtain.’ Of the daily grinders, there is no finer companion, and no more eager newshound, than Colin Young of the Daily Mail. He always delivers.

Favourite radio/TV commentator?
George ‘Danger Here’ Hamilton of RTÉ is a consummate all-round professional, adept at painting a picture at football, rugby and classical music. I miss the dulcet tones of the late Peter Jones. Remember Wimbledon 77? ‘And tonight Virginia Wade will have tea with the Queen.’ Magic.

If you could introduce one change to improve PR between football clubs and football writers what would it be?
All we need is a seat, a team sheet and a match programme. After that, we’re on our own.

One sporting event outside football you would love to experience?
The Masters at Augusta.

Last book read?
‘Penguins Stopped Play’ by the late Harry Thompson, a hilarious account of a globetrotting crew of village cricketers. Wish I’d been with them.

Favourite current TV programme?
Match of the Day. Was and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Your most prized football memorabilia?
A curling black and white photo with Diego Maradona taken in Seville in 1993. The great man didn’t speak a word of English, but was still extensively quoted in a page lead for the Irish Independent the next day.

Advice to anyone coming into the football media world?
A notebook, pen and wide-eyed wonder still won’t go amiss. As for the bus timetables, there’s an app on the mobile for that now.

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