Hoolahan training in Cork. Donall Farmer/INPHO
holy grail

'Sometimes you think it will never happen' - Hoolahan thankful to reach a major tournament at last

It has been a long time coming for the 34-year-old schemer.

HAVING RECENTLY CELEBRATED his 34th birthday, Wes Hoolahan will finally get the chance to showcase his talent on the European stage this month.

For a time, it looked as though the technically-gifted Dubliner might never be afforded such an opportunity, however.

Wes made his senior international debut in 2008 during a friendly against Colombia at Craven Cottage after impressing in the Championship with Blackpool. But, despite constant calls his inclusion, it would be anther four years before the attacking midfielder earned a second cap.

Giovanni Trapattoni clearly had his doubts about where he would fit such a player into his rigid system, so it came as no great surprise when Hoolahan wasn’t picked to travel to Euro 2012.

The following World Cup qualifying campaign would see him used sparingly by the Italian — clocking up just 107 minutes of competitive football as Ireland finished behind Germany, Sweden and Austria.

Wes Hoolahan Hoolahan in 2008. Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

Thankfully, the current management team have shown considerably more faith in the Norwich City schemer, and Hoolahan has played all but one of the competitive games he was available for during the O’Neill era.

Now, with Euro 2016 on the horizon, he admits wondering whether he would ever get the chance to line out at a major tournament in the past.

“Sometimes you think it will never happen but luckily enough we’re going this year and I’m really looking forward to it,” Hoolahan said yesterday. 

Fortunes at club level haven’t been as positive in recent weeks as Norwich suffered a second relegation from the Premier League in three years.

You don’t have time to think about it,” he explains. “There was disappointment with the relegation but you’ve got to get your head on and concentrate on the Euros. Hopefully going to France will be great.”

Although he feels he can have a major impact at the tip of a the diamond in a 4-4-2 formation, Hoolahan always feels equally as comfortable in behind a lone striker.

“With a diamond you get a lot of chances to get on the ball and make things happen,” he adds. “But a 4-4-1-1 suits me as well.”

After the distractions of the Belarus friendly and the squad announcement this week, all attentions turn to the first Group E fixture at the Stade de France on Monday week, 13 June, where a meeting with Sweden awaits.

On Ireland’s tournament opener, Hoolahan says: “The first game against Sweden is important and a positive result there will lead us in the right way to get out of the group.”

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