Irish media critical of ‘outstanding’ Norwich City star Wes Hoolahan being left out of Republic of Ireland’s World Cup qualifying draw in Georgia
- Credit: AP
Wes Hoolahan’s absence from the Republic of Ireland’s disappointing 1-1 draw with Georgia during World Cup qualifying has been criticised in the Irish media.
The Norwich City veteran has 40 caps and is often talked about as still being the creative driving force for both the Canaries and his country, despite being 35 years old.
Ireland boss Martin O’Neill opted to leave the playmaker on the bench in Tbilisi yesterday afternoon, despite Shane Duffy’s early header being cancelled out in the 35th minute by a Valeri Kazaishvili strike and both teams tiring in temperatures of around 34C in the Group D encounter.
Ireland and Arsenal legend, Liam Brady, said after the draw: “You’ve got to give players a chance to express themselves and I think they’re stifled and confused. It’s just hopeful football, whereas when Hoolahan’s on the pitch, it’s not hopeful football, it’s constructive football.
“The fact that the manager didn’t play him or bring him on — that’s confusing the Irish public. It confuses us here. He’s the most constructive player we’ve got. He adds guile to the team. You can give him the ball. He can receive it in tight spaces. A lot of our players can’t do that, so why’s he not involved? That says it all.
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“Martin might turn around and say ‘I’ve got 13 points on the board — we’re second.’ But we could be an awful lot better. I think we’ve had opportunities to grab this group by the scruff of the neck had we been more adventurous in the way we play the game.
“We didn’t beat Wales at home (0-0). We got away with it with Walters against Austria (1-0 away win). They were two games at home. We got away with it against Georgia at home (1-0 win).
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“Hoolahan is a key factor in all of this and it’s a statement by the manager when he doesn’t play Wes that we’re just going to play basic route-one football.”
With Wales later beating Austria 1-0 in Cardiff, with Norwich forward Marley Watkins an unused substitute, Ireland’s hopes of a play-off place are now in the balance.
They trail leaders Serbia by two points but the Welsh are now just two points behind them with three games remaining, with a home game against Serbia on Tuesday (7.45pm) to be followed in October by Moldova at home and a potentially crucial final match in Wales.
Fellow pundit Eamon Dunphy, also speaking as part of Irish broadcaster RTÉ’s coverage, continued: “He doesn’t fix the whole thing, but it makes a statement and it fixes a big part of the whole thing. When Ireland have the ball, he always wants it, so he’s showing for it all the time.
“The next pass is always to a green shirt and he’s got the confidence to want the ball in any area of the field.
“If you put Harry Arter back where Whelan is, bring Wes in, then you have Hendrick (to come in). But if you go on the way he’s going on, ignoring an outstanding player who makes the team tick, lots of things develop.
“It’s not the answer to everything. There are other influences — things you could talk about all night. For example, when we got the goal, we stayed in our own half, and invited the opposition on to us for 40 minutes. If you invite them onto you and never put any pressure on when you or they have the ball, then you’re liable to develop a problem and that happened.
“But you do send a signal when you leave an oustanding player like (Hoolahan) off the team. It’s a kind of an insult really.”
Canaries striker Nelson Oliveira was an unused substitute as Portugal won 1-0 in Hungary in Group B last night, courtesy of a 48th minute goal from André Silva.
Oliveira scored as the European champions won 5-1 at home against the Faroe Islands on Thursday.