Ireland backed for international return

West Brom 1 Stoke City 2

Ireland backed for international return

Corkman Ireland has not played for his country since Grannygate back in 2007. Martin O’Neill opted not to include Ireland in his plans when, last week, he named his squad for the summer friendlies.

But he plans talks with Ireland this week and he could well be called-up if O’Neill gets the answers he wants.

Hughes, speaking after Ireland had impressed in Stoke’s 2-1 win at West Bromwich Albion, said: “I think this year was all about making sure he was settled.

“He has only just signed a new contract and I think that was his focus and rightly so. He likes stability and wants to know where he will be next year.

“But I am sure that in the future it (playing for Ireland again) is what he wants to do, having spoken to him.

“Probably this summer is a little bit early but I am sure he will look to help Ireland when he can.”

Ireland has resurrected his career at Stoke this season following his switch from Aston Villa.

He also impressed for Hughes at City. Hughes added: “Stephen has always been a very good player, I have always known that, having worked with him in the past.

“He is one of those players who has natural talent. But he just needs the right platform.

“Unfortunately, not really due to anything Stephen had done, but because of circumstances that had changed at clubs he was at that affected his ability to get games and game time.

“He just needed to get out of that situation and come to a club where he would obviously be appreciated and played on a regular basis and when you get playing and functioning consistently well then you will get a really good performance from him.”

Stoke ended the season with two pieces of club history following the victory at The Hawthorns.

The win took their points tally for the season to 50 and a ninth-placed finish — both their highest ever in the Premier League.

They had taken the lead through Gareth McAuley’s own-goal in the 22nd minute. Stephane Sessegnon looked to have earned Albion a point with his 56th minute strike before Marko Arnautovic hit the post for Stoke, with Youssouf Mulumbu being denied by the woodwork for Albion.

But substitute Charlie Adam sealed a deserved win for Stoke with a low drive three minutes from time.

WEST BROM: Foster, Dawson (O’Neil 83), McAuley, Olsson, Brunt, Mulumbu (Vydra 90), Dorrans, Amalfitano (Anichebe 63), Morrison, Sessegnon, Berahino.

STOKE: Sorensen, Cameron, Shawcross, Wilson, Muniesa, Nzonzi, Whelan, Odemwingie (Crouch 77), Ireland, Arnautovic (Etherington 90), Walters (Adam 81).

Ref: Lee Probert (Wiltshire).

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