Norwich City ace Wes Hoolahan set to focus on Austria

PUBLISHED: 06:00 23 May 2017 | UPDATED: 06:57 23 May 2017

Wes Hoolahan is back on duty for the Republic of Ireland. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Wes Hoolahan is back on duty for the Republic of Ireland. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

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Wes Hoolahan has the green light to focus on Austria and fire the Republic of Ireland a step closer the World Cup finals.

The Norwich City player-of-the-year reports back to training today with his country as they gear up for a crucial clash against the Austrians in Dublin on June 11.

Martin O’Neill is relying on the 35-year-old to play a vital role for the Irish, who sit joint top of Group D on 11 points from five games alongside Serbia. Hoolahan will fly out to America next week for a friendly against Mexico before one last tune up against Luis Suarez’s Uruguay on June 4.

“I’ve played Wes more often than anyone else and he appreciates that,” said O’Neill, speaking to the Irish Independent. “If he never played another game for me now, he’s done brilliantly for us. Wes is incredibly popular at Norwich with his enthusiasm. They don’t realise he is 35 because he looks 18. He has lovely ability and playing at home he gives us some creativity. He’s had problems at club level with managers but we’ve used him as a number 10 and to accommodate Wes, we need to have an incredible work-rate around him and that doesn’t always work.

“It’s an awkward one considering the Championship finished so early but if we get these couple of days in, it will be a great help. From personal experience, I know it as a player, you finish the season, have a day or two off and then you meet up. They’re conscientious lads but it’s about going away for a week or two with family but not getting into holiday mode.”

Hoolahan had a family break to Dubai but is raring to play his part in a crucial few weeks for his country.

“You need to tick over. I didn’t do anything for four or five days after the last (Norwich) game but in Dubai I was back in the gym and doing my fitness work,” he said. “We meet up in Cork and I will look forward to the games coming up. The next two games will prep us well. I imagine the Championship boys will get a run out in New York and then the Premier League boys will come back in at Dublin for the second game, but it is all about the qualifier against Austria. The Wales game (the last qualifier) we were great without getting the win and if we beat Austria then we are in a strong position. They were very physical and good at their place.”

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