By Glenn Mason
Wes Hoolahan enhanced his reputation by scoring his first goal for his country against Poland last night, but it may not be enough to earn a start in next month’s World Cup qualifier against Sweden.
The Norwich City midfielder’s second-half volley followed a first-half strike by Ciaran Clark, also his first in an Irish jersey, to give Ireland a 2-0 win at Lansdowne Road.
However, manager Giovanni Trapattoni said afterwards that he favoured playing with two strikers against the Swedes, rather than playing a man behind a central striker, meaning Hoolahan may have to make do with a place on the bench again.
“It feels amazing,” Hoolahan said when asked to describe the how it felt to score.
“It’s great to score a goal and come off the bench. It was a great ball by Jeff (Hendrick) over the top. I came onto it nicely and just put it in the corner.
“Coming off the bench it was tough, but I thought generally I did okay.”
Although he has starred for Norwich in recent years, Hoolahan is not complacent about keeping his place in Trapattoni’s squad.
Hoolahan said: “He just said play the normal role I do at Norwich in behind Conor and just support and get back in to midfield when they have the ball.
“I’ll keep doing what I’m doing for my club and see how it goes. “
Derby midfielder Jeff Hendrick played a starring role in Hoolahan’s goal and it was a sweet night for the debutant as his family and friends were in the crowd.
The 21-year-old has impressed many with his performances with Derby and at underage level for Ireland and on the basis of last night’s second-half display he has a bright future in the senior team.
Hendrick said: “It was a good goal and we are all delighted we got the win. I was just delighted to get on the pitch and even get picked in the squad. I’m glad to get an assist.
“With Derby the manager is always telling me to just take the ball down with every opportunity I get. I sort of did it without thinking. He made the run and I just played him in. It was a great finish from Wes. The minute it touched my chest I saw him running.
Hendrick is still eligible to play for Noel King’s U-21 side for two more seasons so he is not getting carried away.
He said: “There are still a lot of players that aren’t in the squad. I was just happy that I’ve made my debut now. I’m still only young and I have two or three years in the 21s, so if I don’t get picked again then hopefully I’ll be in the 21s again.
“We just have to keep playing at our club as well. You can’t take your foot off the pedal or else you’ll be replaced. There’s always someone to come in behind you.”
Hendrick’s fellow debutant and Derby County team-mate Connor Sammon almost rounded off his maiden appearance with a goal, but was still “delighted” to get 90 minutes on the pitch.
“I was pleased with my performance,” said the former UCD and Derry City striker.
“I would have loved to get a goal. I had a great chance in the second half when my touch was a bit heavy and I probably should have taken a shot with that.
“I really enjoyed getting 90 minutes. I didn’t expect that. We were playing against a tough team in the Polish. Credit to all the boys for getting a clean sheet, scoring two good goals and getting a good win.”