Luckless Hoban aims for strong U-21 finish
Few players have battled back from two career-threatening injuries but Tommie Hoban will feel the hard work was worth it when he leads Ireland's U-21s out tonight at the Waterford RSC.
Noel King's side face Slovenia (7.30) with their prospects of reaching next year's Euros already gone but possessing an array of players with plenty of motivation.
Martin O'Neill, due to attend tonight, last saw Hoban two seasons ago as he featured regularly in Watford's promotion-winning campaign. While the Hornets prepared for the Premier League, however, their home-grown centre-back was about to begin a nightmare which resulted in him only being able to resume his career properly a year later.
"I began suffering severe pains in my legs and hips," explained Hoban, who is spending the season on loan at Blackburn Rovers. "It wasn't just a case of not being able to walk in the morning - I could hardly breathe.
"I had two operations and tonnes of injections but the pain continued. Eventually, they discovered the cause of the problem to my pubis bone. Now I have to manage the pain because I may have this condition for the rest of my career. It's certainly a lot better and at least I can play games."
Rather than being a contender for the senior squad, Hoban is just delighted to wearing the green of Ireland at any level a full year on from his last appearance.
The 22-year-old endured a similar protracted lay-off four years ago when an ankle injury escalated to the stage it necessitated surgery in the US. He reclaimed his place in the Watford team after that setback and intends using this season's spell in the Championship to replicate the feat.
"This is my first loan away from Watford and it gives me a good chance to play games," explained Hoban, who made his debut last Saturday against Fulham.
"Watford have changed managers a lot but the latest one, Walter Mazzarri, is good to work with. Although he had me on the bench for a Premier League match a few weeks ago, I need to be playing regularly and he agreed to the loan.
"He's using the more experienced players at present, so I've to make the most of this move and try break into the Watford team next season."
Darragh Lenihan, one of Hoban's new team-mates at Ewood Park, is suspended for tonight along with another former Belvedere graduate, Sean Kavanagh.
League of Ireland pair Dylan Connolly and Sean Maguire are in line to start, as is former Cork City defender Eoghan O'Connell, a favourite of Brendan Rodgers at Celtic. "We've got three games left in the group and we'll do our best to finish the group in a respectable position," asserted Hoban.
IRELAND (probable): D Rogers (Falkirk); E O'Connell (Celtic), T Hoban (Blackburn Rovers), K Toner (Walsall), G Rea (Luton Town); A Browne (Preston North End), J Cullen (Bradford City); D Connolly (Bray Wanderers), J Byrne (Blackburn Rovers), O Shopido (QPR); S Maguire (Cork City).