Wes Hoolahan weaves his magic to leave Canaries flying
Norwich on the way to Wembley for promotion battle with Boro
WES Hoolahan is on his way to Wembley, and Norwich City admit that they owe a large debt to the Ireland international for helping them get past Ipswich Town and into the final of the Championship promotion playoff.
The Canaries now face Middlesbrough in that one-off game at Wembley next Monday, Norwich winning 3-1 in the second leg (4-2 on aggregate).
Hoolahan put Norwich on the way with a calmly-taken penalty, awarded after Ipswich defender Christophe Berra handled a Nathan Redmond shot, and boss Alex Neil was pleased with the pair, especially Hoolahan.
"With what is at stake, what you are playing for, the biggest local derby I am told, it was always going to be frantic. I put Wes Hoolahan and Nathan Redmond in my team to give us that wee bit of added quality at the top end of the pitch and they combined to get us the penalty and the red card, which was a huge turning point in the game," said the Scottish-born manager.
Hoolahan has a happy memory of his last trip to Wembley, as he helped Blackpool beat Yeovil 2-0 in the League One play-off final, in 2007.
Of the defeated Irish contingent at Ipswich, Daryl Murphy, the Championship's leading scorer, now takes a break before he links up with the international squad ion Dublin for the games against Scotland and England next month.
But Stephen and Noel Hunt need to hold talks with Mick McCarthy on their futures as the brothers are out of contract at Portman Road.
"We're immensely proud of the players, they've been fantastic all season and I couldn't be any prouder of a group of a group of fellas," said McCarthy.
"They're hard-working, really professional and I think they've shown what they've been about and why we're in the play-offs when we were pretty unfancied at the start of the season."
The line-ups for the play-off in England are now complete, with a lot of Irish interest. In Saturday's League Two final, Southend's Irish contingent of Cian Bolger, Michael Timlin, Barry Corr, Gary Deegan and Stephen McLaughlin face Wycombe.
In Sunday's League One final, Alan Browne hopes to feature for Preston against Swindon.