Wes Hoolahan: We know how to bounce back from defeats
Published 21/06/2016 | 02:30
Wes Hoolahan was on the field in Lille when Shelbourne's European run ended in defeat way back in 2004.
Fast-forward a dozen years and Hoolahan is part of another Irish team, this time in green, not red, needing a big win to stay involved in Europe.
No longer a little-known young pro, the 34-year-old is at another stage of his career and, should Ireland fail to beat Italy tomorrow and exit Euro 2016, this could well be Hoolahan's last appearance in the green shirt.
He likens the Italy game to a cup final, and references his last experience of a vitally important one-off game, when his Norwich City side played Middlesbrough for the right to play in the Premier League.
Norwich won that one and Hoolahan feels this Ireland side contains enough match-winners, and enough experience of recovering from setbacks, to deliver against what will be a much-changed Italy side.
"We got beaten in Poland and then we went and beat Bosnia to qualify for here," says Hoolahan.
"We have had a few setbacks and the next few games we have gone and won, or got the result we needed, so we have a good bunch of lads here who are positive.
"It's like a cup final for us. We have to win no matter what. It is similar to last year against Middlesbrough, you need to win."
Yesterday, Roy Keane spoke at length about what happened against Belgium in Bordeaux on Saturday and stressed the need for all involved - players and coaching staff - to be self-critical and analytical.
Of course Keane wasn't on the field and Hoolahan is more eager to dispatch the 3-0 defeat to the past.
"I think we quickly need to get over it, we have an important game on Wednesday and hopefully if we get the result we can get out of the group," says Hoolahan.
"Belgium are very good, one of the best teams in the world and we just need to get over it.
"The Belgians needed to win as well and they went for it. Hopefully, Italy will sit back a bit and kind of counter-attack us and so hopefully we can have a bit more of the ball and create a few chances."
It's uncertain whether Hoolahan will start what would be his third game in just over a week, and Keane also stated that a regular diet of Champions League football gives the Italian players the experience of playing big games in a short space of time.
Hoolahan, however, stresses that he's fit and available to play and he knows that, in a game where Ireland need a win, his creative insight on the field could be crucial against a defence that has yet to concede at this tournament.
"I don't mind that, my job in the team is to create chances for the other lads and help my team-mates out, hopefully I can do that," he says.
"Hopefully we can get a lot of the ball and get the chances to score the goal we need to get through the group.
"It's important for us to be on the front foot, keep the ball better and create chances. Against Sweden we had a lot of chances, a lot of shots on goal; we didn't do that against Belgium and they were the better team on the day, that's how it goes.
"We need to play better against the Italians, keep the ball better, create more chances, and hopefully we can do that."