Tuesday 24 April 2018

'He is never too eager to pay him a compliment': Damien Duff baffled by Martin O'Neill's treatment of Wes Hoolahan

Will Slattery

Will Slattery

It was a pity that Eamon Dunphy was rested from the RTE panel for last night's World Cup qualifier win in Moldova, because viewers missed out on seeing the outspoken pundit react to his favourite playing orchestrating two Irish goals.

Wes Hoolahan, the creative force who Dunphy - along with many others - consistently says should be a regular in the Ireland team, picked up the man of the match award after a bright attacking performance.

Read more: 'I'm not sure that that is absolutely true': Martin O'Neill and RTE's Tony O'Donoghue have testy post-match interview

The Norwich midfielder played a gorgeous through ball to Shane Long for Ireland's opener and a lovely bit of skill resulted in Seamus Coleman and James McClean combining for Ireland's third and clinching goal.

Hoolahan's performance once again raised the question as to why the 34-year-old isn't more regularly used by Martin O'Neill, with the Ireland boss opting to leave him on the bench unused as the team struggled to beat Georgia at the Aviva last Thursday night.

The RTE panel had an interesting discussion about the matter after last night's win, with Richie Sadiler incredulously asking 'how is this still an issue?' after yet another impressive Hoolahan display.

Damien Duff was similarly perplexed at O'Neill's treatment of Hoolahan, wondering why the manager isn't more effusive in his praise of his player after a top performance.

"For me, yes," Duff said when asked if Hoolahan always has to start.

"I love watching him play, he gets the team ticking. But it is Martin O'Neill picks the team. If you look at the first goal, it was an absolutely amazing ball, eye of the needle stuff. In the second half, it was Seamus [Coleman] crossing the ball for James [McClean] but it all started with that guile from Wes.

"I don't see many players in our squad who can do that. If he is not on the pitch then there is no goal there.

"It is always a prickly point. If he is ever mentioned in interviews with Martin O'Neill, he is never too eager to pay him a compliment, which I find amazing but each to their own."

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