Wes Hoolahan admits Ireland duty has eased pain of relegation
Published 12/06/2014 | 07:57
Wes Hoolahan admits the Republic of Ireland's end-of-season campaign has helped soothe the pain of Norwich's relegation from the Barclays Premier League.
The 32-year-old playmaker met up with his international team-mates last month while still coming to terms with Norwich's failure to secure their top-flight status, and with his own future uncertain as a result.
However, the chance to show Ireland boss Martin O'Neill what he can do - an opportunity he was rarely afforded by predecessor Giovanni Trapattoni - has meant a positive end to a difficult campaign.
Hoolahan said: "Obviously it wasn't a good way to end it, getting relegated with Norwich. It's not nice.
"But these last three or four weeks have got my confidence back up again and I am buzzing again for playing.
"It's been great. I played three of the four games, so it was nice to come out with that.
"Obviously the results are disappointing and hopefully come September, we will be all heads down and ready to win."
Hoolahan started the 2-1 home defeat by Turkey, the goalless draw with Italy at Craven Cottage and the 5-1 hammering by Portugal in New Jersey during the early hours of Wednesday morning as the wheels rather came off for an injury-hit Republic.
But while the fixtures have proved extremely informative for O'Neill as he has cast a close eye over some of his squad players, it is the business of qualification for Euro 2016 - a process which starts in Georgia in September - which is what really matters.
Hoolahan said: "You want to play against the best teams and you want to test yourself.
"The last three games we have tested ourselves and it will stand us in good stead for the September game."
Ireland will hope a difficult night at the Metlife Stadium will be a distant memory by the time they run out against the Georgians after a game which always looked difficult on paper proved alarmingly so.
The World Cup-bound Portuguese, bolstered by the return from injury of star man Cristiano Ronaldo, raced into a 3-0 lead before half-time, and after James McClean pulled one back for the Republic, struck twice again to kill the game off.
Hoolahan said: "It was tough. It was a difficult game, a difficult start for us. We had a bad start, so it was a obviously a tough night for us.
"We started the second half really well. We created a lot of chances, we moved the ball better than we had.
"The gaffer said at half-time, 'Be comfortable on the ball, get forward a bit more', and I thought we did. In the first 20 minutes of the second half, we had them on the back foot.
"But they hit us on the counter-attack a lot of times with some great balls. You are playing against one of the best teams in the world.
"They are going to the World Cup, and it was a difficult night."