The pint-sized, Irish football favourite has hung up his boots on the international stage and the nation is in mourning…
Undoubtedly, Wes Hoolahan was the best technical footballer Ireland have capped in the last fifteen years.
Today, he announced his retirement from international football – leaving behind a legacy far bigger than he was entitled to – considering he was barely given the chance to do so.
A constant issue with the Republic of Ireland has been the evaluation of players on its own island.
There were many cases since Hoolahan – most recently Sean Maguire – where he’s played at an astonishing level in his own domestic league – declared not good enough for international football; hopped on a plane – and was called up.
Nobody epitomises the wastefulness that comes with this mindset like Wes Hoolahan does. Wes didn’t receive a call-up until the age of 26, despite starring in a Champions League qualification run with Shelbourne a few years previously, which caught the attention of most of Europe.
That’s not even the worst part. While clearly looking the part for Norwich City since 2008, Hoolahan didn’t start a competitive game for the Republic of Ireland until he was 30.
He would go on to make just fifteen competitive starts – with all, but one coming under the current regime of Martin O’Neill.
While a war rages on about the approach of the Republic of Ireland’s approach to football, Martin O’Neill has now one more ounce of justification should he refuse to play the ball on the deck. As seen in Euro 2016, which will go down as Hoolahan’s biggest flashpoint in green – ‘Weso’ controlled how Ireland played and was central to everything positive they did going forward.
His goal against Sweden was the tidiest move the Boys in Green have put together in years, and his cross for Robbie Brady to head past the Italians will live in the memories of those loyal supporters for the rest of their days. The only issue is that there would, and should, have been countless others.
Of course, he stood for more than that. He was undersized by Premier League standards. He was probably undersized by anyone’s standards – but he would consistently outshine anyone with a ball at his feet.
The Dublin native is effectively a smaller scale Lionel Messi story, in that – if you’re good enough, you’re big enough.
Speaking to The Herald today, Hoolahan remarked: “Even to play for Ireland once is the dream when you are a kid. I always said to myself, I would love to play for my country, even once, to see what it’s like and always have that on my record so to get as many caps as I did, I can feel very happy about that.”
Indeed, and that passion and desire to represent your country isn’t commonplace anymore. Not even just in this country – worldwide. Some see it as a global reach for their brand; others see it as more time in the spotlight. It was never about that for the 35-year-old.
For the last five years, all Eamon Dunphy has moaned about is the lack of Wes Hoolahan on the football pitch.
While you’d do well to ignore the majority of what he says, he’s basically lost 90 per cent of his repertoire today.
Today, we wave goodbye to one of the Republic’s finest ever footballing sons.
Thank you, Weso…