Ireland boss speaks exclusively to canaries.co.ukREPUBLIC of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill has hailed Wes Hoolahan's latest Norwich City milestone, after the attacking midfielder made his 300th appearance for the club at the weekend.
Moving to Carrow Road from Blackpool in the summer of 2008, City's longest-serving current player has been involved in three promotions during his time in Norfolk, becoming a firm fans' favourite in the process.
Speaking exclusively to canaries.co.uk before the game at home to Leeds United, O'Neill said: "To play 300 games for any club in this day and age is a great achievement.
"He was saying to me that it took him a few years before he even moved over to England. Certainly in my time, when I was growing up, if you hadn’t moved across to England from Ireland by the time you were 20 it was almost too late.
"In that sense he was a late developer but to get that success later on, sometimes it brings a greater enjoyment. He remains young at heart, certainly."
O'Neill's arrival as Ireland boss in 2013 marked something of a new chapter for Hoolahan, who quickly went from the fringes of international football to holding a key role in his nation's first team.
"He’d been around the Ireland scene for a while but in the last couple of years he’s made a proper mark with us," the 64-year-old former City player and manager explained.
"I know that myself, from when I was playing for Norwich after the World Cup in 1982. It takes a wee bit of time; physically, you’re a little bit tired and pre-season comes around almost too quickly for you.
"Speaking to supporters though, they were saying he’s playing really well which is good news. As long as he remains fit, then it’s good for us but also good for Norwich."
After starring at Euro 2016, City's playmaker - along with teammate Robbie Brady - is now playing his part as Ireland look to secure a qualification berth for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Their next step on that journey sees them travel to Vienna to face Austria on Saturday, with The Boys In Green having collected seven points from their opening three matches in Group D.