Folan evades talk of Cyprus hell return

AND the deadpan one-liner of the week award goes to... Caleb Folan.

Asked if his Hull City and Irish team mate Kevin Kilbane has spoken to him about that night in Nicosia – you know the one – the softly-spoken striker looks a tad bemused as he shakes his head.

“No,” he replies. “I’ve been asked that a few times but no-one seems to mention it – for whatever reason.”

For whatever reason, indeed. Of course, we in the dreaded meeja have no such squeamishness about mentioning the war even if, for a relative newcomer to the international scene like Folan, such troubling issues are by now almost a matter of ancient history.

“You’ve got to move on and remain positive,” he says. “We’re in a great position in the group so hopefully we can kick on and put that result behind us.”

In common with the likes of Keith Andrews and Glenn Whelan, Folan is one of the new – if, at 27 – scarcely fresh-faced wave of Irish players who have seen their club positions strengthened by their international breakthroughs.

“Yeah, I think being selected and playing at this kind of level always gives a manager something to think about at club level,” he reflects. “So I’m sure Phil Brown takes that into consideration.”

Impressive towards the end of last season when thrown in at the deep end against Italy in Bari after just 22 minutes, and again when on from the start against Bulgaria in Sofia, it is hardly a coincidence that Folan has begun the new campaign as a regular at Hull.

“Last season I didn’t feel I had a fair run as such at the club,” he admits. “This season, I’ve gone in pre-season and worked hard and put myself in the frame. The manager has selected me so far. As they say, it’s a funny old game so I’ll just continue to work hard and see where that brings me.

“The manager speaks to all the players at the club before the start of the season and that was a good chance for me to speak about last season and what I felt my chances were. That’s the kind of conversation it was and there was a lot of positive encouragement there for me. So from then on, I just knuckled down, worked hard and so far, so good.”

As to his form this term, he admits to having found the spearhead role at Hull a testing one.

“It’s been quite tough, to be fair,” he says. “We’ve adapted to like a 4-5-1 formation so I’ve had to play that lone role up front which has been hard work at times but I’ve managed to do the best I can in the games and keep my place for the following games so it’s been pretty good.

“We played that formation a few times last year – the manager seems to favour it against a lot of teams. So we’re used to it but it’s still a totally different ball game to the standard formations. But it’s going okay.”

Helped in no small way, of course, by the growing Irish contingent at the KC Stadium.

“Yeah, Stephen (Hunt) has come in and done really well for us and Paul McShane, who was with us on loan, has come back, so it’s a bit of a family now, happy days.”

And while Kevin Doyle’s recovery from injury means that Folan will most likely have to put up with a place on the bench in Nicosia tomorrow night, he is still at the stage where he can relish simply being a part of the international scene.

“Yeah, definitely. To be called up is a massive honour. You always learn coming over here. Every time I come over I enjoy it. At international level, you come across some top players and you’re playing with top players as well.

“You learn off other good players and that puts you in the right frame of mind. Playing with experienced players like Robbie Keane and Damien Duff helps your game. And when an experienced manager like Trapattoni shows confidence in you, it gives you belief in yourself. This is where you want to be.”

One can only hope he has reason to say the same thing at full time in the GSP Stadium tomorrow night.


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