Once upon a time in Dublin, getting a score from Old Wes meant something entirely different, but it was shift of a different kind at another south Dublin venue that has Irish football fans all hot and bothered. Wes Hoolahan’s cameo against Poland has put a pep in the step of the Irish soccer team and its under-fire manager.
The former Shelbourne play-maker, now making Norwich City tick in the Premier League, has had to bide his time to make an impression on the Irish international coach but judging by the comments of the Italian, Hoolahan may finally have earned recognition.
The introduction of the baby-faced 30-year-old against Poland immediately raised the tempo of the Irish team and his goal put the gloss on an impressive second half home display when latching onto débutante Jeff Hendrick’s exquisite pass to fire past Wojciech Sczesny to seal a 2-0 win.
On pundit duty for Sky Sports, Niall Quinn lamented the manager’s lack of praise for Hoolahan in his interview after the final whistle. However, Trapattoni delved deeper in his post-match debriefing by admitting that he and Marco Tardelli may previously have been guilty of ignoring the Dubliner’s shout for inclusion.
“In the past we had many questions about Hoolahan and I said ‘we know him very well’. Always I said that we have the new players like Long and the young ones like McCarthy.”
“Hoolahan we know many times. With Marco, I repeated that it’s a pity – maybe we have overlooked him because when we see him in this club he plays well in this position but his club is no Manchester or Arsenal.”
As ever with Giovanni Trapattoni, the meaning of his press-conference remarks was muddled in the translation.
Why exactly is it a pity? That he still doesn’t fit his system? That Hoolahan’s performances for Norwich, and his outstanding display against Poland won’t alter the manager’s thinking if he reverts to type for the crucial qualifiers in March?
Trapattoni, however, has shown enough examples of his willingness to change since the mauling by Germany last year. Robbie Brady and James McCarthy now look certain to play a part in the games with Sweden and Austria next month. Seamus Coleman too, must be a serious consideration when he’s back to ful fitness. Ciaran Clark’s fine display last night may also have parachuted the former England U18 captain into the heart of the Irish defence.
And now Hoolahan may have played his way into the thoughts of a manager who is still acutely aware that his grasp on the Irish job is far from firm.
“(Hoolahan) is good tactical option and in the future we will consider this.”
Trap’s future in the Irish hot-seat hinges on the do-or-die battles with Sweden and Austria in March. In Hoolahan, he may have found the kiss of life to revive our World Cup fortunes.