Norwich star Hoolahan won't give up on his Ireland dream

Aidan Fitzmaurice

WES HOOLAHAN is off to Poland for the Euro 2012 finals next summer - even if, as expected, he fails to win a place in Giovanni Trapattoni's 23-man squad.

It's a long time since the Dubliner was involved with the national team, - as a 'B' cap against Nottingham Forest in Dublin in October 2008 was the last time he had any sort of call from the FAI.

That cold shoulder from Trapattoni is in spite of Hoolahan's excellent form in midfield for a Norwich City side who are sitting safely in mid-table and close to securing their Premier League status for next season. Hoolahan's play in midfield has been one of the main reasons for the Canaries' success under Paul Lambert this season - the Dubliner is held in such esteem at Carrow Road that only last week he was named in the club's Hall of Fame.

Pundits and ex-players are constantly baffled by the fact that the 29-year-old cannot even get a place in the Ireland squad, let alone some game time with the national team which would allow him to shake off the tag of one-cap wonder (Hoolahan played just once at senior level, against Colombia in 2008).

To his credit, the former Shelbourne hero has never sulked or moaned and has been nothing but complimentary of Trapattoni in the media, and Hoolahan's interest in the national team -- even though the national team boss is not interested in him -- is clear from the fact that he plans to go to the Euro 2012 finals as a fan if not as a player.

"A few of my mates from home are talking about going to Poland and I'd like to go along with them if I can," Hoolahan told the Evening Herald, planning to write his own version of Joxer Goes To Stuttgart.


"So I'm thinking about going to Poland to see a few of the games, doing the campervan thing like the other supporters. No matter what happens I am still an Ireland supporter and I'd love to see the team do well.

"I just hope the team do well. It's so long since we were there and it'd be such a lift for the country if we were to do well," added Hoolahan, who admits that his own chances of making the squad are slim, though he refuses to abandon hope.

"It's simple really, I just hope that if I keep playing for Norwich, and playing well, the call-up might come," Hoolahan admitted.

"I heard that Trapattoni came to see Norwich against Wolves the other week. I played well and a few of the papers named me as man of the match so maybe he was impressed.

"I haven't given up hope, you can never stop dreaming. Players might pull out, you might have an injury or two and I'm realistic enough to know that I'd need something like that to happen for me to make the squad.

"The squad that the manager has at the moment is the one he will pick for the finals, that seems fairly clear, but you can never say never," he said, expressing surprise that his Norwich team-mate Anthony Pilkington - capped once by Ireland at U21 level - has also been omitted.

"I'm surprised that Anthony Pilkington hasn't made the Irish squad as well as he's eligible for us and he's been a brilliant player all season. But he doesn't really mention the Ireland side at all," Hoolahan says.

The former Belvedere player has done his share of travelling since he left Shelbourne in 2005, lining out for Livingston and Blackpool before that successful move to Carrow Road, and Hoolahan is loving life in East Anglia.

"It's probably the best spell I have had in my career, since I went away to Britain at 24 years of age," he reflected.

"Playing in the Premier League, playing every week and scoring a few goals, it's been a great season for me on a personal level. I have a bit of security here as well, I have two years left on my contract. I'm settled here now, I have been here four years and I love it. It's the longest I have been at a club since I left Shels so it's good to be settled.

"I got to captain the team as well and that was a big honour, to captain a team in the Premier League in England. I've done it about 10 or 12 times this season. Grant Holt is the club captain but if he's injured or suspended I take over.


"Last week I was named in the club's Hall of Fame and that was a big deal for me as well. Norwich have had some great teams and players over the years so for me to be included with names like Steve Bruce and Martin O'Neill was a massive honour for me personally."

What's baffling about Hoolahan's exclusion from the Ireland squad is that he could offer so much to the team, as a player who has repeatedly been touted as someone who would thrive in a continental league.

"The manager wants us to get the ball to feet, keep the ball moving quickly and not hoof it long," he explains.

Meanwhile, the Ireland squad looks to be a long way off, but the man from Dublin's north inner city is made of stern stuff and, with patience, his day could come.