Prom night at the Aviva as Ireland's Cinderella Hoolahan plays himself into contention
While last night’s events on the pitch were totally insignificant in comparison to what was going on a few miles away at Leinster House, Ireland and Poland was, in its own unique way, also a prom night. In the American sense of the word, of course.
Conor Sammon went to the ball after Giovanni Trapattoni publicly declared his love for him, but the show was stolen by what you could term, going on the manager’s previous ignorance, our own Cinderella in Wes Hoolahan.
He may have only been given a half hour to impress but Trap’s half-hearted admittance that he might have been wrong to have overlooked the former Shelbourne midfielder for so long was as close to an apology Irish fans will get for his inexcusable obliviousness towards the country's most creative player.
Hoolahan took his goal magnificently, striking home with the outside of his left boot after Jeff Hendrick produced a stunning pass to set him up, and overall linked well with Sammon who, pardon the pun, looked like a fish out of water during spells of his debut.
Speaking afterwards, the diminutive Norwich City midfielder was pleased with his goal, but there was still an uncertainty hanging over him with regard to next month’s crucial qualifiers with Sweden and Austria.
“I just have to keep doing what I’m doing with my club and see how it goes,” he says of his chances of being involved in Stockholm on March 22.
As for the goal: “It feels amazing, it was great to score. It was a great ball from Jeff, I took it down nicely and stuck it in the corner. Generally I thought I did OK, but it’s always tough coming off the bench.”
While he may not be a man of many words, it was hard to dispute that his cameo did him plenty of good and no bad.
In his own post-match comment, Trap said Hoolahan should have been given a chance to play in the green shirt much earlier, but once again the manager’s most effusive backing was for Sammon, even hinting that if it came to a choice of the Derby striker or ‘Wessi’ he would pick the former.
The striker, who only six years ago was playing part-time with UCD and working full-time with Bank of Ireland, was very surprised to have lasted the full 90 minutes, although similar to Hoolahan, he was left none the wiser after the game as to whether he did enough to play his way on to the plane to Stockholm.
“I was pleased with my performance and would have loved a goal but I really enjoyed it. I didn’t expect to get 90 minutes. And it was good to play a tough Polish team, it was a real test,” he said.
“I enjoyed my role in the team, I’m delighted with my night’s work. When I was called into the squad, I didn’t expect to play 90 minutes. I thought I might get half an hour to come on and make an impact but when I found out I was starting I was excited and I’m very pleased with how I played.
As for Trap’s reaction to his performance: “He was pleased, it was a good shift as a group. He gave me no indication at all though, so I have to take it day by day. The cap has whetted my appetite to earn more and please God I will some day.”