Saturday 24 March 2018

'You just keep going, do your best and try to prove people wrong'

David Kelly

David Kelly

AT times it appears that Giovanni Trapattoni seems content to be conspicuous not so much for what he has done with Ireland, but rather what he has not done.

With a little less than 20 minutes to go at Wembley, his familiarly tiring, disjointed side were alarmingly ceding momentum to their hosts when he beckoned in theatrical fashion towards the bench.

Wes Hoolahan leaped up enthusiastically. So, too, Jeff Hendrick, who until recently was about as recognisable to the opera-loving Italian as Daft Punk's new single.

The drama was damning. Hendrick embarked upon a personally unforgettable cameo, but one devoid of wider resonance; Hoolahan slinked, quietly and with a nervous smile, back into his seat.

"Of course, you'd like to get on the pitch and show what you can do," the former Shelbourne playmaker admits with a tinge of regret, "the same as everyone in the squad.

"But that's just the way it is. I don't think I was close to coming on at any stage. You warm up every 15-20 minutes to keep yourself ready if you are called upon.


"It was a great experience to be there and I can just hope that the chance to play for Ireland at Wembley will come around again."

He may have to wait a while. Then again, waiting is a task of which he has become almost as proficient as the playmaking role which, although apparently suitable against impressive names like Manchester City and Manchester United, may yet again fail to pass muster against such a giant as Georgia.

Trapattoni was characteristically vague this week when appraising Hoolahan's chances of auditioning for the Faroe Islands qualifier in six days – "yes, probably, yes", he prevaricated.

The player himself is understandably as fuzzy as his diffident international boss.

"It looks like the manager will make changes," the Norwich schemer says. "We have a big squad and, hopefully, I will get a chance to get on the pitch.

"I have been playing well in the Premier League for the last two years, so people know what I can do and, hopefully, I can bring that form from into the Ireland set-up. I'd like to hope that if I get a chance against Georgia and do well, I'd have a chance in the team after that. You can only take each game as it comes, you try to impress and do well in every game, but so does every other player in the squad.

"I think I can add something to the team if I come in. I like getting into the box, scoring goals, creating goals for other players, that's how I see my job. I am a player who likes to get forward and that's what I can bring to the team."

Hoolahan, now 31 and enjoying the most enduring spell of sustained excellence in a career that so often feigned to threaten more immediate promise since leaving these shores, did such a job against Poland in February.

Then, Trapattoni conceded that he had overlooked Hoolahan's talents and hinted that he could offer his side a tactical solution to the Gordian knot that ties him so slavishly to a 4-4-2 formation.

Assistant coach Marco Tardelli's assertion that Ireland's Wembley shape would be replicated tomorrow evening would seem to negate that principle; unless Hoolahan (below) is shoe-horned unfavourably into the rigidity of a 4-4-2, which would do neither him nor his team any favours.

"It's up to the manager to pick the formation with Ireland," he says. "At Norwich I generally play in the hole, behind the striker. It's a position where you basically go and float."

He admits he could adapt if required. "I can play on the left or just in the middle as well, but that free role is one I really enjoy.

"It is different with Ireland as we generally play 4-4-2. It's the manager's call to make. But if the manager did play a 4-5-1 with me in the hole I think I'd do well, I have been doing that for the last four or five years at a high level.

"You play against top-class defenders in the Premier League every week. To me it's the best league in the world.

"You just keep training, keep working and prepare as best you can, to make sure that if and when you do get a chance you have prepared properly. You get so many knock-backs, but you just keep going, do your best and try to prove people wrong."

Irish Independent

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