Monday 26 September 2016

Wes Hoolahan: I probably owe Robbie Brady a few drinks for winner against Italy

Published 23/06/2016 | 09:16

Wes Hoolahan, left, clipped the ball over the top of the Italian rearguard for Robbie Brady to head home the winner
Wes Hoolahan, left, clipped the ball over the top of the Italian rearguard for Robbie Brady to head home the winner

Wes Hoolahan left the Stade Pierre Mauroy intent on buying Robbie Brady a drink for sparing him a dressing room inquest.

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The 34-year-old playmaker was presented with the perfect opportunity to fire the Republic of Ireland into the knockout stage of Euro 2016 when he went one-on-one with Italy keeper Salvatore Sirigu six minutes from time in Lille, only to come off second best.

However, he made amends within seconds when he clipped the ball over the top of the Italian rearguard for Norwich team-mate Brady to head Ireland to a 1-0 victory and into a last-16 clash with host nation France.

Hoolahan said: "I was thinking when it happened 'Oh no, what's going to happen at the end?', but luckily enough Robbie got the goal.

"I just kept my concentration and thought another chance might come or I might be able to create something.

"There are always going to be ups and downs in football - that's life. You need to stay focused and in control to the last minute. Luckily enough Robbie has got on the end of it and I probably owe him a few drinks."

Manager Martin O'Neill remarked after the game that his side's ability to score late goals can be no coincidence as they do it so often - they struck at the death against Georgia, Germany and Poland during qualification - and Hoolahan insisted he never thought the win had eluded them.

He said: "Not really because we have scored so many last-minute goals, so we knew we would get a chance in the end. We showed great determination, character and the will to go on until the end.

"The fans were great as well and they pushed us on to the end. Even when we scored, they kept us going."

Hoolahan was used only as a substitute in Lille after starting the Republic's first two games took its toll physically.

However, he remains one of the key men in O'Neill's squad, a significant development from the days when predecessor Giovanni Trapattoni was not convinced of his value.

As a result, he was winning just his 33rd cap against Italy, although he admits his experiences in France over the last few days have more than made up for the years of disappointment.

He said: "Yes, it does. The last 10 days have been brilliant, just being around everybody and experiencing this. It has been a great honour to play for my country, to play the first two games and then come on tonight.

"To be a part of it is amazing."

Press Association

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