Saturday 1 October 2016

Stephen Hunt: 'I'm sick of the McAteers getting the credit'

From coffee school crew to the boy band, I hope the country falls in love with this great bunch

Published 22/11/2015 | 16:00

'I hope the country falls in love with these players'
'I hope the country falls in love with these players'
When James McClean first came on the scene he thought he was a Hollywood movie star and played that way

The country has been carried away by Ireland's achievement and I feel the same way. The players deserve this adulation. I know some of them better than I know others but this is my view of some of the key men in the campaign.

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Darren Randolph: It's very difficult to get to know a goalkeeper. They do their own warm-ups. Randolph wasn't in the squad much with me but he looks calm and has given the manager a good alternative.

Shay Given: His new hairstyle makes him look 20 years younger or at least I think that's what he was hoping for. Shay is really proud to play for his country. Before every game, half of Donegal will turn up at the hotel to say hello or goodbye or whatever they do. He'll want to be on the plane. He has a massive desire to do well.

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Seamus Coleman: Should have gone to the Euros the last time and that will still be with him. After we qualified the last time, he told me I'd be in the squad. "You're Trapattoni's pet." His attitude reminds me of mine but he'd probably beat me with his football. Coleman is quiet but you never think he's timid because there is a steely look about him. All round, he has matured into a superb full-back. His defending was a masterclass over the past two games. He never really went out with the lads when I was in the squads but I think he is an inspiration for the new generation and he is the son every mother in Ireland would love to have.

Richard Keogh: Everyone calls him Stevie from X-Factor and the players have warmed to him. I've only met him once and I could tell why players like Daryl Murphy love him. He's really funny and wants to be involved in whatever jokes are going around. He's a good footballing centre-back who takes some risks with the ball. The more he plays, the more Irish fans will see that.

Ciaran Clark: A player who has come to the fore in the play-offs. I don't know him that well but he has captained his club at a young age, and he has real potential. Lot more to come if he avoids injuries.

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John O'Shea: Sheasy is good at everything except swimming. They mustn't have had any swimming pools in Ferrybank. A good friend to me and to lots in the squad, John is the most successful club player in the squad, a player who was marked for success since he was 12. He seemed to be 6ft then and he is as big a presence today. You'd never know all he's achieved as he's so modest. Asks questions of the squad who all respect him as he's a key presence.

Stephen Ward: A tough nut from Portmarnock. Went to England as a forward and Mick McCarthy turned him into a left-back. He was part of our coffee school in my time, the group that would sit and put the world to rights. He was always the man for a good story and his ex used to cut my hair beside the coffee shop so we'd have a few stories too. He did unbelievably well against Germany and in Bosnia given that he's not getting a look-in for his club.

Marc Wilson: Keeps himself to himself. There are all sorts of characters in a football team and over time he has come out of his shell. Solid enough as a defender but maybe his quietness goes against him.

Aiden McGeady: Players would stand back when he had the ball in training because he could embarrass you and get a laugh from the lads, but he is a Glasgow-born lad living on his reputation from his Celtic days. He has amazing feet but he needs to go on loan, not to improve his skills but to play tough football. He's struggled since he came back from Russia and he doesn't want to miss this chance.

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Glenn Whelan: Another member of the coffee school. I know why O'Neill and Keane rate Whelan. He moans every day, he wants to win and he demands good training sessions all the time. Sometimes I would look at him and think, 'Relax, Whelo' but maybe that's why he's still playing in the Premier League. He loves the crack and deserves another chance at the Euros.

James McCarthy: Has progressed well over this campaign but he was in danger of becoming a whipping boy before that. It can take time to feel part of an international set-up and I think he's come a long way. Great friends with Coleman, which will help because Coleman is top drawer in everything he does.

Jeff Hendrick: New kid on the block and don't know much about him but he looks completely at home. He plays with a freedom and it helps that Derby have a good coach who will get the best out of him.

James McClean: Where do you start with this lad? When he first came on the scene he thought he was a Hollywood movie star and played that way. A guy who, in a way, reminds me of myself by giving everyone a lift when he comes on. Hope he matures a bit and develops his game.

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Robbie Brady: Robbie doesn't lack confidence. I first came across him in a bar in Dublin after one game and I liked the belief he had in himself which wasn't arrogance. I like the way he has taken on free-kicks, corners, anything he can to get an assist. He needs to do better on them. He might improve as a full-back if he plays there for his club but I think his best position is further forward.

Wes Hoolahan: He never really fitted into the team when I was there because Trap was in charge. He was a really nice lad but we all knew Trap would never take to him. He's brought a different angle to Ireland's attacks. We still play direct but Wes brings something different. To succeed at the Euros, we'll need that variation and the long ball might be more of a percentage.

Jon Walters: I learned the hard way to stay away from him in training. He's not tall but I got battered by him once when playing left-back and he was playing right wing. I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall when he and Roy made up and put their dispute at Ipswich behind them. He's a really good guy, really easy to talk to and deserves all the plaudits that have come his way. He doesn't know his own strength, but now the whole country does.

Shane Long: I missed not being involved last week and Longy was one of those I missed most of all. He has everything and it was great to see his musical skills went viral when the video of Robbie, Wes, Brady and Long came out. It didn't quite capture how great Shane is but it showed the spirit in the squad. He deserved his goal against Germany and hopefully he enjoys this tournament more than the last one.

Daryl Murphy: If he believes he deserves to be where he is now, he can stay there. I roomed with him and he always felt he was there to make up the numbers and never felt he would play. Murph needs to feel loved. He went back home from Luton when he was younger and I think he is more settled now. He's another player who seems to think he's actually in a boy band. He's a sound lad though and hopefully he gets to fulfil a dream next summer.

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Robbie Keane: Myself and Robbie didn't get off on the right foot. I was cheeky when I was younger and that probably didn't help because I don't think he took to me. I wasn't there to make friends though and over time we became more relaxed around each other. Not the best player to play for Ireland but certainly the best finisher.

I hope the country falls in love with these players. I wanted to draw the big teams in 2012 but now I'm not so sure. Maybe we should have beaten Iran or Saudi Arabia and we could have been hailed as others were. I'm sick of the McAteers getting the credit when this generation, who deserve it just as much, are forgotten because of what happened in 2012 against some of the best teams in the world. Most of them now have another chance, a chance we didn't take in 2012, They now have the chance to be heroes.

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