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Dublin: 6°C Monday 19 April 2021

O'Neill praises Hoolahan's ability to 'unlock defences' at home following Gibraltar win

The Norwich man was instrumental in Ireland’s victory today.

Ireland’s manager Martin O’Neill and Wesley Hoolahan after he was substituted.
Ireland’s manager Martin O’Neill and Wesley Hoolahan after he was substituted.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

MARTIN O’NEILL WAS full of praise for Wes Hoolahan after he produced an influential performance as Ireland beat Gibraltar 7-0 at the Aviva Stadium today.

Hoolahan scored a goal and contributed several assists, with Ireland running out easy winners ultimately.

The Norwich man, who was left out of Ireland’s first Euro 2016 qualifier away against Georgia, was substituted in the second half of today’s match, leading to speculation that O’Neill was resting him for the game in Germany on Tuesday night.

However, O’Neill seemed to dampen thoughts of Hoolahan starting against the Germans, citing his importance in home matches where Ireland needed goals, rather than in difficult away qualifiers.

“I thought Wes did very well,” O’Neill told RTÉ. “Here, when we have a problem unlocking defences, he’s done it before since I came in.

“Certainly here, at the Aviva, he’s played very well indeed and I thought he played some brilliant balls tonight and I’m delighted he got a goal.”

O’Neill also heaped praise on Robbie Keane, who was also substituted after scoring a first-half hat-trick.

“He’s 34 years of age. He’s spent a little time in America, but it doesn’t seem to have affected him too much. He’s a goalscorer, the one you depend on, particularly in matches like this, where you’re looking for someone who’s got that proven pedigree.”

And while O’Neill said he was relatively satisfied with the performance, he suggested the team still had much to work on.

“It was far from perfect but it was delightful to score the goals,” he said. “Robbie [Keane] had a hat-trick early on and the first goal settled us down.

“It was a reasonably comfortable evening for us, but in the last 20 minutes, we got rather sloppy and could have conceded a goal, which would have been really irritating.”

“We could have pushed on to score a few more goals. It’s not that we weren’t trying to, but we just lost a bit of momentum. But overall, we were very satisfied with winning the game.”

Meanwhile, man-of-the-match Wes Hoolahan was similarly content with his day’s work, and also paid tribute to Keane, who he linked up with well throughout their time on the pitch together.

“I was heavily involved in some of the goals, so that was nice and getting a goal was an added bonus.

“[Robbie Keane is] so clever in and around the box, and you saw tonight that he’s a proven goalscorer.”

Furthermore, asked whether he was expecting to start against Germany on Tuesday, Hoolahan responded: “Hopefully, it’s a big game Tuesday and we’re looking forward to that.”

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Paul Fennessy

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