Wes Hoolahan is without a doubt the most creative Irish player the country has seen in the last five years and yet again, that fact has been overlooked.
73 minutes into a pivotal game in which Scotland had pegged back a dogged Ireland side, long balls and early crosses were causing trouble for the back line of Charlie Mulgrew and Chris Martin but no one was attacking them. Up comes Robbie Keane, forever in Irish folklore known as the man who could get you a goal.
Ireland had a chance. Then, within a matter of seconds, that chance vanished. Robbie could surely knick a goal, provided the service was good and in a joint decision Martin O'Neill decided to contradict that fact, by bringing off, yet again, Hoolahan.
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At 33-years-of-age Hoolahan is by no means a spring chicken but during Sunday's game against Scotland, he was, as ever, making things happen, creating space and taking a man on, forever the taboo in an Irish team and the only hope in the side.
The paradox of bringing on Robbie Keane to get a goal but taking off our only creative mind was unbelievable and extremely disappointing. But it was something that Irish fans have more than grown accustomed to.
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Hoolahan has fought tirelessly to get to where he is. At Norwich he worked the lower leagues and is deservedly in the top flight of English football. But much like his international career, it's all come a bit too late.
Without doubt the Ireland team has been a shadow of the team that reached the 2002 World Cup, and rightly so, almost 15 years on the team hasn't developed and haven't dared be creative. Seeing players like Hoolahan appear only 19 times during that period testifies that fact.
Even up to 2012 when Ireland, somehow, managed to make it to the Euros the squad lacked any sort of attacking prowess. Players like Simon Cox, Paul Green and Stephen Hunt were selected ahead of Hoolahan and, once again, we were embarrassed on a continental stage.
This isn't to say the sole problem is not picking the Dublin born magician that is Hoolahan, it is that there is no one even in contention, never mind the squad, that could spark any sort of creativity in the midfield.
A gaping hole for long balls to be pumped into was the only thing that was left after Hoolahan came off on Saturday and full backs were consistently lumping the ball into these spaces, a sight that is so familiar when watching an Ireland game.
Hoolahan had changed that, someone with flair and confidence, trickery and quick feet had finally come out of the woodwork, but ultimately, it was too little, too late. When O'Neill called curtains on Wes's game right at the crunch, a huge sigh of disappointment rang out at the Aviva Stadium as the hope for a vital win whimpered out.
A scrap for qualification via the back door and a third place Euro qualifier finish is all Ireland can hope for, as any chance of fluidity and graciousness escapes the side once again
Hoolahan is surely set to feature more, but it's all come a bit too late and another tragedy of football is upon Ireland. A player that has never been truly appreciated is let slip through the net, and there is no one there to even pick up the pieces.
Should Wes Hoolahan be given more of a chance by Martin O'Neill? Let us know below!
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