In the latest addition of a series of questions to Irish football journalists about working abroad, Philip Quinn lifts the lid on his best meal being solely alcohol, why no stadium beats Wembley, and the one thing you must never forget when travelling abroad.
Travel Bug by Philip Quinn (Irish Daily Mail)
Can you remember your first working trip overseas?
At guess, I’d say the Paris-Roubaix bike race in the spring of 1988.
Did you learn anything in particular from that trip?
Yes. Remember to collect your language in airport transfers. For two days in northern France, I didn’t have a change of clothes as my bag earned air miles on the carousel in Heathrow – schoolboy error.
Favourite place that you have visited on a work trip?
New York. We had a blast.
Have you returned to any city when not working?
New York. For several more blasts.
Have you visited any country during a particularly turbulent period?
Yugoslavia in 1998 was scary. We were in a war zone, on and off the pitch. The flight home was delayed while the FAI haggled with the Belgrade airport authorities over payment for fuel. I think they accepted vouchers.
Best result a team has achieved on your travels?
In competitive games, it had to be the Republic of Ireland beating Italy 1-0 in the 1994 FIFA World Cup, although the penalty shoot-out in Genoa four years earlier runs it close.
For a friendly international, the 2-0 win over Germany in Hannover before the ’94 finals was outstanding. Can’t see that happening again for a while.
Any cities or countries that you still want to visit?
In Europe, Madrid, Oslo, and Ljubljana are capitals yet to be ticked off. Have never been to Chisenau and have no great desire to go either. Driving Route 66 remains a burning ambition.
What is the best hotel you have stayed in?
New York has never let me down.
And what about the worst?
Take your pick from anywhere in the Balkans pre-2000. Hell holes. Skopje in ’87 still gives me shivers; in fairness, it’s improved since.
What is the best meal you’ve had on your travels?
The one on the flight home from Tehran in 2001 after Ireland qualified for the 2002 World Cup. Don’t remember what was served but it came with alcohol when we crossed into Iraq air space – our first drink in four days. Magic.
Should we even ask about the worst?
Can’t recall any major deli-beli debilitations, although I did have severe constipation the Tour de France one year, so much so that Sean Kelly was asking how I was feeling after stages. Eventually, in Lourdes, there was a miracle, several actually.
What is the best stadium you have worked in?
Wembley. Historical venue, the views are unimpaired and the wi-fi works like a dream.
Any nightmare trips?
Where to start? Four men in a car for three weeks on the Tour de France in 1989 was some survival test. There was the Mafia-style abduction in Bucharest in 1997, which nearly sparked another revolution, a brief interrogation by the ‘authorities’ late one night in Moscow in 2002, getting on the Lille express before the World Cup play-offs in Paris in 2009 and praying the train would stop.
What are the three must-need items when working abroad?
Money, a mobile phone and a map.
Best advice you could give to a new journalist going away?
Make sure you have your passport. In 1996, after Mick McCarthy became Ireland manager, I was sent to Malta on an assignment. I got as far as London before returning home red-faced. My old Irish Independent bosses were not pleased.