independent

Friday 16 November 2018

Rosslare helps Stephen in 'Hunt' for new club

padraig byrne

Republic of Ireland soccer international Stephen Hunt has been working up a sweat in Rosslare over the past couple of weeks as he's been getting his pre-season training regime off the ground at Rosslare Strand's pitch, which is near the house he shares with his wife Joanne and daughter Louella.

Republic of Ireland soccer international Stephen Hunt has been working up a sweat in Rosslare over the past couple of weeks as he's been getting his pre-season training regime off the ground at Rosslare Strand's pitch, which is near the house he shares with his wife Joanne and daughter Louella.

Hunt was released by Wolves towards the end of June following their relegation from the Championship and now he has set about building up his fitness levels while he negotiates with a number of clubs as to where he will play next season.

To help with his training, Hunt has enlisted the help of 'Fitness Freak' and personal trainer Richard Kennedy, who is currently based in Clonmel.

'I've known Richie for years,' Stephen said. 'He played football with me for Crystal Palace and Brentford before he came back and became a fitness instructor and set up his own business. He's from Rathgormack in Waterford, the same as myself, so we get on quite well. I find I need someone to push me and get me going because if I train on my own I'm only at about 60%. Richie knows me well and knows just how much to push me.'

Richard has been travelling to Rosslare a couple of times a week throughout the past month in order to help Stephen get in shape for the coming season. 'Basically what we're doing is a mini pre-season,' said Richard. 'Obviously most of the clubs in England are back in pre-season now so we're trying to make sure that Stephen keeps up and keeps in shape. We're mainly doing endurance work and gym sessions. He had an operation on his hip just over 8 months ago, so a lot of our work surrounds his mobility too.'

Stephen started training with Richard after seven weeks off and found it quite tough at first. 'The first session was horrendous!' he said. 'The fitness levels had decreased a bit while I was off. I had got in the habit of eating bars of chocolate and drinking Coke and things like that, and you'd be surprised how much difference that makes. I'm starting to get back up to speed now though and I still liaise with Wolves to see what level they're at so I can be one step ahead in my own training.'

Stephen is currently on the lookout for a new club, however there is one in particular that he would like to play for. 'My agent has been in talks with two or three clubs,' he said. 'I've turned down offers already. I could go abroad. I've had offers from Germany and France which I've turned down. I'm kind of holding out for one specific club and if they don't come in for me over the next couple of weeks, I'll have to sit down and look at my options.' When asked whether the club he's hoping for is playing in the Premiership or the Championship, Stephen smiled and replied 'No comment.'

Someone who could also be on the move this summer is Hunt's long time team-mate and close friend, Kevin Doyle. Stephen's wife Joanne is Kevin's cousin, and this has something which has brought them even closer together following stints in the same team at Wolves and Reading. Stephen has also refused to rule out the two playing in the same team again in the future. 'Stranger things have happened,' he laughed. 'It would be funny if he goes to Hull. Then I would have played for all the same teams that he's played for. Kevin will be in pre-season at the moment. He's fairly settled at Wolves, but I think it's more than likely that he will leave this summer.'

Hunt has become quite settled in Rosslare and he has grown to love the place as much as wife Joanne does. 'I love it down here,' he said. 'It's a beautiful spot and it has all the facilities you'd want. Joanne's family are close by and mine are only an hour away so it's perfect really. Everyone down here has been really great to us. I'm really grateful that they've let me use the facilities down here to train, even if I may have woken the neighbours up a bit early in the morning with the Rocky music blaring!'

As well as choosing a new club, Stephen is also hoping to force his way back into the Ireland setup wherever he's plying his trade next season, he aims to catch the eye of Giovanni Trapattoni. 'With Ireland it's all to do with form,' he said. 'I'll have to produce a sustained period of form to force my way back in. I wasn't picked towards the end there, and that's understandable really. The manager is fairly loyal though and if I can produce the form, hopefully I can be involved again. That's why I do all this stuff here, all this hard work, in order to give me the best possible chance in the future.'

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