Norwich City’s Wes Hoolahan praised for Ireland performance by Shane Long and Martin O’Neill
14:15 06 March 2014
Wes Hoolahan’s man-of-the-match performance for the Republic of Ireland last night has been praised by manager Martin O’Neill and team-mate Shane Long.
The creative midfielder continued his Carrow Road rehabilitation on Sunday when he opened the scoring with an early goal at Aston Villa, despite Chris Hughton’s side going on to lose 4-1.
That followed a January transfer saga as the Irishman and his agent tried to force through a move to Villa, managed by former Norwich boss Paul Lambert.
Hoolahan, City’s longest-serving current player, continued the promising form he displayed in the first half at Villa as he played the first hour of Ireland’s 2-1 friendly loss to Serbia at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin last night.
The 31-year-old had an early goal wrongly ruled out for offside and looked lively in support of Hull City striker Shane Long in attack, as he earned his 11th cap for his country.
Long gave Ireland the lead in the eighth minute but failed to capitalise on more chances, as Serbia eventually came back to win the game, and Long praised the efforts of Hoolahan.
“It’s nice to get a goal, nice to play up front with Wes as well, I think he enjoyed setting me up and it’s a striker’s dream when you have someone like Wes behind you,” Long told the Irish Times.
Hoolahan has come in for criticism from some Canaries supporters for a lack of celebration of his goal at Villa Park, but looks to have again proved to Hughton that he can be an influential performer at the top level.
Former City boss O’Neill, jointly in charge of Ireland alongside Roy Keane, replaced Hoolahan with Norwich team-mate Anthony Pilkington in the 61st minute, who was winning his third cap for his adopted country, and was pleased with the efforts of his side.
“Very pleased, not only with Wesley but a few others as well,” O’Neill told the Irish Examiner. “I thought we started very brightly and had a (Hoolahan) goal disallowed. I didn’t know that one of their players had played us onside. If I did I probably would have gone mad.
“I just mentioned it to the referee and he apologised. That was disappointing because we were well on top. Having said that, we scored a very good goal and had a great opportunity to go 2-0 and at international level that is a big moment for us.”
Long was set up twice more by Hoolahan but the former West Brom striker wasn’t able to take advantage, with O’Neill adding: “Again, it was a terrific ball by Wes that put him in. His (Long’s) confidence was high and I thought he might take that another yard or two and put it in.”
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