Monday 18 December 2017

Wes Hoolahan is now a philosophy - he is a lifestyle choice

Brave, selfless Hoolahan our lone beacon of guile, providing proof little lads can shine in big games

Wes Hoolahan has the courage to risk losing possession in a way that in unacceptable to some Ireland fans
Wes Hoolahan has the courage to risk losing possession in a way that in unacceptable to some Ireland fans

Joe Molloy

I'll get on to Wes in a moment. But first, there is a reason you won't have seen Robbie Brady in the team photo for the Poland game. As the team were lining up, he sprinted over to the touchline to ask a member of the back-room team a question.

A laminate white sheet was eventually sourced, there was an exchange between the pair, positions on the sheet were pointed out and Robbie took his place at left-back. This was happening less than a minute before kick-off in a huge qualifier and one has to wonder why.

Martin O'Neill's tendency to name the team 90 minutes before kick-off is odd. A player, particularly in Brady's situation, should know early on where he's playing, who is in front of him and who is beside him. Brady and Aiden McGeady took a good 20 minutes to figure things out on that left-hand side.

When you consider that Joe Schmidt will tell his players the team on a Tuesday, this 90 minutes before kick-off business is an utter nonsense. Can't we trust professionals to handle not being in the team for a day or two?

That said, one has to commend O'Neill for a genuinely brave selection. What a rare joy it was to be excited about the Irish team. Maybe the Brady call didn't quite work out, but I love the theory behind it.

And then of course there was Wes. Sunday night was a tragically long time coming. To many of us he is not Hoolahan. He is Wes. Wes is now a philosophy. He is a lifestyle choice.

Across 90 minutes, he embodied all that is good and right about football. His approach is relentlessly brave. There's the ridiculously selfless running to get on the ball, the touches and turns, the vision and the executions, but above all else there is the courage to risk losing possession in a way which is unacceptable to a quotient of Irish supporters.

This quotient look on passively when Marc Wilson boots a ball 40 yards up the pitch, but then pounce when Wes loses the ball in the final third - it being proof that little lads can't play in the big games.

Without Wes we had zero cleverness about our play. If anything he highlighted the worrying staleness of James McCarthy's passing. The Everton man couldn't get turned on the ball and feed it to Wes or Robbie Keane further up the field. It's an issue which O'Neill will have to address.

Irish Independent

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