Conor Hourihane has urged the Republic of Ireland to use a hugely encouraging week as a watershed moment as they target a World Cup qualifier victory over Portugal next month.

Stephen Kenny's squad met up in Dublin last week having won only one of the 16 games they had played under their new manager and none of the 12 competitive fixtures.

They returned to their clubs on Wednesday having followed up Saturday's 3-0 qualifier victory in Azerbaijan with a 4-0 friendly demolition of World Cup hosts Qatar to set themselves up perfectly for their return clash with Cristiano Ronaldo's men at the Aviva Stadium on 11 November.

Asked how big the last week or so could be in the development of Kenny's new-look team, 30-year-old midfielder Hourihane, currently on loan at Sheffield United from Aston Villa, said: "Massive, I suppose.

"It's been a fantastic camp, a fantastic week. I feel like we've taken big steps forward - I feel like we have done that probably over the last couple of camps, but maybe not had the results, although performances were definitely getting better.

"Over the last couple of months, there's been a real feelgood factor in the camp, playing in a certain way and people can see that. We have to keep building, keep moving forward. It's a good step forward, definitely.

Hourihane admits it was hard to stay upbeat after a long winless run

"It's exciting, I suppose, and it's great that it's coming together a little bit. But listen, next camp we've got Portugal at home, which is a very tough game, so there's still a lot of hard work to do.

"It's a great springboard to move forward in the right direction. It's definitely a good week to build on."

Ireland's hopes of making it to the World Cup finals were effectively extinguished by home draws with Azerbaijan and Serbia next month, and Kenny has admitted his long-term view has always been on the Euro 2024 campaign, a tournament for which he hopes to secure a play-off place in next summer's Nations League.

The manager has nevertheless stuck to his guns in standing by the young players he has elevated to the senior international stage and the more expansive brand of football he wants to instil in them.

Hourihane admitted it was difficult to maintain belief as results continued to go against them, but is hopeful things have now started to turn.

Stephen Kenny is targeting Euro 2024 qualification

He said: "It's definitely not easy. Listen, when performances and results haven't been going great, it's easy for confidence to go, but you have to keep believing as much as you can."

Ireland's cause has been helped in the last week by Callum Robinson's remarkable goalscoring form.

The West Brom striker had only one international goal to his name before kick-off in Baku, but helped himself to a double there before plundering a hat-trick against the Qataris - the first for the Republic since Robbie Keane's against Gibraltar seven years and a day earlier - with defender Shane Duffy completing the scoring.

Robinson scored five goals in two games

Asked about Robinson's contribution, Hourihane said: "Duffy always gets his head on a couple, but you need that striker, you need that talisman to be chipping in with goals all the time, so hopefully we've got one now.

"With five goals in a week, it's been a fantastic week for him and hopefully he can be that player for us."