Ireland should be embarrassed by Wes Hoolahan's career
There goes Wes Hoolahan.
There goes the exact sort of player that everyone in Britain and Ireland has been crying out for since the Spanish football revolution.
There he goes with 42 caps.
An international career basically squashed into four and half years, two campaigns and, even then, underused. Held back.
There goes the best attacking threat the country has - not before, not in theory, but in reality right now.
For some reason, too many people allow themselves to fall into ignorance when taking the opportunity to laugh at the age of Wes Hoolahan or the fact that bad, bad managers at Norwich were afraid to play him every single week. For some reason, it's easier to turn a blind eye to everything you can actually see for yourself.
Why do you take Daniel Farke's word for it (he's the Norwich manager, if you didn't know) instead of your own? Why are Norwich games you don't hear about a better argument than games you actually watch? Why should they have more weight than what Hoolahan did at the only major international tournament he got to play in?
Ireland scored two goals from open play at Euro 2016 - Hoolahan scored one of them and set up an immortal moment for the other. He won man of the match in one of the two games he was allowed to start. He has delivered for Ireland, when he has been allowed to.
What else, honestly, is there left to talk about when discussing his credentials to play for Ireland?
— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) January 19, 2018
But there he goes, not even with unanimous admiration never mind the commotion and frenzy that his retirement statement should've whipped up. The entire country shouldn't be sad or regretting what happened, they should apoplectic that he's allowed to walk off with his competitive stint for Ireland condemned to 23 games, 19 qualifiers, with a gimme match in June 2013 against Faroe Islands through to being brought on too late against Denmark in November 2017.
In fact, in his last campaign, Wes Hoolahan was reduced to 475 minutes despite proving to be one of the most important players just the summer previous on the biggest stage. 475 minutes. 5.3 games of Ireland's 12.
And, to be frank, it's probably a weight off Martin O'Neill's shoulders who will no longer have to answer questions about why the best ball-player in the squad isn't playing in a squad largely devoid of ball-players.
So, when Wes Hoolahan retires, he's given the manager's blessing - his bag was probably already packed for him and his locker and parking space already handed over to Aiden McGeady.
But, when John O'Shea retires, he's dragged back. He's not allowed to. The 35-year-old centre half (at the time) with five centre backs currently ahead of him in the country's pecking order is convinced to stay on but Wes Hoolahan, the only player of his type in his squad, is waved off.
— Robert Redmond (@RobRedmond10) February 8, 2018
If there were any other player like Wes Hoolahan in the Ireland camp, if there were five of them like there is for O'Shea - Duffy, Clark, Keogh, Rice, Long - you might accept his retirement but still find it strange that he wouldn't want to right the wrongs that held him back from playing for his country at the peak of his powers. Or make up for lost time.
But it's not Wes Hoolahan's fault that he only has that opportunity to do more and to chase that time at 35. It's Ireland's fault and, call it over the top, but this case should be more than just a cautionary tale, it should be an embarrassment.
We're not talking about Wes Hoolahan in Ballon d'Or terms, we're talking about him playing for Ireland. We're talking about him playing as much as McGeady's 92 caps, Glenn Whelan's 83. We're only asking if he is as good an attacker as McClean or O'Dowda or Hendrick or anybody on the bench. And never mind the fact that he's better than most of his compatriots, but he's the only type of player in that mould so the idea that he'd have to wait until he was 31 to play competitively and then get 23 competitive games for Ireland isn't good enough. It's not.
We can have all the national enquiries we want and reinvest in grassroots and come up with different ways to coach better ball-players but if Hoolahan is anything to go by, we're only wasting our time and money.
Wes Hoolahan made his competitive international debut at 31. For Ireland.
What would be the point in producing any more creative players?