Roy Keane reckons Wes Hoolahan announced himself to the rest of Europe and the world with that wonderful strike and goal in the Stade de France against Sweden
Ireland’s assistant boss didn’t know a great deal about the Irish Messi up until a few years ago when Norwich made some waves under Paul Lambert and Hoolahan was at the centre of it.
“I suppose I really started to notice him in recent years at Norwich when he had a bit of success and Paul Lambert was his manager. They had a couple of promotions on the spin,” he said.
“He’s a late developer. It’s brilliant he’s come into a tournament and had a big impact. He’s matured nicely,” claimed Keane.
Asked whether he doubts Hoolahan’s ability to contribute in back-to-back games, Keane followed Martin O’Neill’s line.
“That might always be something with Wes. Looking at teams during the season, Wes wasn’t always in the starting XI at Norwich and managers know what players they want for a system,” he said. “They might have some big strong boys and set-pieces comes into it. But if you’re a player like Wes and you’re getting on the ball, that’s what you want.
“I don’t think there’s an issue with a player like Wes over whether he’s doing enough when he’s on the ball. You can talk all day about what he does off the ball – you can do that with a lots players.
“But if Wes is giving you that bit of trickery, a bit of composure and then, trust me, you don’t talk about the other stuff.”
Keane will be looking for improvement from everybody in the Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Bordeaux tomorrow but he believes that Ireland are now in a very good place.
“If you want to look back over the game, there’s loads of parts that you can break down and say you need to do better,” he said.
“That’s the game of football. It’s about mistakes and how you cope with them.
“You can analyse until the cows come home after every game. If you have not held on to a lead, as much as the players analyse their performance, we also do so as a coaching staff.
“Could we have done this, could we have changed that earlier, you have to be self critical. That’s why were in the game. You can sit back and say we did a great job, but if you haven’t actually won the game,” he said, his voice trailing off.
“When you’re watching the game, your eyes don’t lie to you. We had chances against Sweden and the players played with a bit of freedom.
“These are players for the future for Ireland over the next 10 years and it’s important that when they do come to these tournaments that they embrace it, that they enjoy it.
“You speak to them and they seem quite happy go lucky guys,” said Keane.
With his focus now firmly on Belgium, Keane is still finding time to watch other group games and it is very obvious he is loving every minute of his time here in France.
“I think the tournament so far has been fantastic. I know there’s been trouble, obviously, but from a football point of view,” he added.
“But it’s been really enjoyable. It’s great. I’d rather have this pressure than be sitting in the studio.”