Hunt struggling to see path back into Irish set-up under Trap regime
NOEL HUNT is glad there's a golden memory of Bari in 2009 to cherish because he feels there's no way back to the Ireland set-up for him under Giovanni Trapattoni.
It all looked so rosy for the striker when he helped Ireland achieve arguably their best result in the Trapattoni era by snatching a 1-1 draw off the then world champions Italy in their own back yard.
Even the disappointment of having the late equaliser confirmed as Robbie Keane's goal instead of his first at international level was tolerable.
What Hunt (pictured right) has found more difficult to accept is his treatment from the Irish management since. Just one more cap was granted, his third, for the dead rubber against Montenegro in October 2009 before the shutters came down.
He did endure a 12-month injury-enforced absence, but it's the period out in the cold last season when he was playing and scoring for Reading in the Premier League that causes the most angst.
Now given a fresh start at Leeds United by his former Reading boss Brian McDermott, the 30-year-old can only hope, rather than expect, to one day resume his international career.
"I don't know if any type of season would get me back into the Ireland scene," said Hunt, when asked if the Championship campaign, which kicks off on Saturday against Brighton, could provide a gateway into the international fold.
"I have not had any contact (from Ireland) since after the Montenegro game. That was it. I have just got to do my thing and worry about myself and Leeds. If a call comes, then I will be delighted. If not, then I'll just keep on working hard."
Operating in the second tier of English football hasn't diminished the international prospects of Hunt's striking rivals Conor Sammon and Simon Cox, both of whom retained their places in Trapattoni's panel for the friendly in Wales a fortnight today, and the Leeds forward believes playing at that level should be no barrier to representing his country.
"Championship players were in the Ireland squad last season and the manager is going to pick who he wants to pick," he said.
"Leeds is a massive club. They've had their gloomy days in recent years, but we've a decent squad now and I think we can have a good season."
Meanwhile, McDermott hasn't ruled out reforming the partnership of Hunt and Kevin Doyle which served the Royals so well during the 2008/09 campaign.
While Wolves are willing to sell Doyle, it's the player's €50,000 weekly wage that requires pruning for Leeds to become genuine contenders for his signature.
"I just think we have to lose a player to get one in," said McDermott on the link to Doyle.
"Anyone would be happy to have Kevin Doyle in their team. I know him well and he's desperate to play for his country. He'll be back in, I'm convinced of that."