Hunt rounds on Ireland detractors

Stephen Hunt has rounded on the pundits who have criticised the way the Republic of Ireland have fought their way to the brink of Euro 2012 qualification.

Football News: Stephen Hunt, Ireland

The Wolves midfielder and his team-mates will book their place in Poland and the Ukraine if they avoid a heavy home defeat by Estonia at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday evening after Friday night's 4-0 play-off demolition job in Tallinn.

Some commentators who have condemned manager Giovanni Trapattoni's conservative approach throughout the campaign have since called for the shackles to be thrown off to complete the job.

However, 30-year-old Hunt's response was withering.

He said: "When we qualified for the first World Cup, [goalkeeper] Packie Bonner couldn't get the ball far enough down the pitch.

"Our style of play has developed since then because we no longer hit it as high as we can.

"We do have a direct style of play, but we have good effective players at it. It's a bit of a myth, really, and we have just to get on with it.

"It can come across sometimes from the media that we don't have a fancy style of play, but we never had, we never, ever had.

"We had Liam Brady, who was talented, but apart from that, you tell me who has been Ronaldo or Messi in the last 20 years for Ireland?

"There is no-one been that good. [Jason] McAteer - good player, works hard, but no Messi or Ronaldo.

"He talks like them, but no Messi or Ronaldo."

Hunt had warmed to his task during an interview in Malahide this evening having earlier responded to a question about the current squad emulating the achievements of previous generations of Ireland players with another loaded comment.

He said: "I will never be bitter though, I will always be encouraging Irish players to do well, and not try to hang on to a job by being bitter."

Trapattoni freely admits his squad does not contain the rich individual talent available to some of his managerial colleagues.

However, the Italian is happy that the character, collective spirit, organisation and work ethic which have fuelled the Republic's last two campaigns more than make up for that, and Hunt agrees.

He said: "For starters, Messi and Ronaldo don't have Irish passports.

"We have some good players - we have some very good players, not just good players.

"We have players who are well capable of producing a bit of magic and playing in the Premier League, and Aiden McGeady plays in The Russian league.

"Look at the Italian manager for England as well, how they are as well now. We are hard to beat and we will be hard to beat come Tuesday as well."

Ireland went into the tie as favourites to progress, but are now seen as racing certainties to make the finals after an eventful evening at the A Le Coq Arena, although that sentiment is not being entertained inside the camp.

A bemused Estonian journalist asked Hunt why he kept using the words "if" and "hopefully" in relation to qualification.

He said: "Yes, 100%, because I don't want to disrespect Estonia. They have earned the right to be in the play-offs like we have earned the right, so we have got to go and make sure we do the job."

A successful completion of the mission on Tuesday would go a long way towards exorcising the ghosts of Paris two years ago when Thierry Henry's illegal intervention shattered their World Cup dreams.

But for Hunt, that devastation has had a positive effect.

He said: "The France game probably brought us closer together in terms of how we are.

"Any team that has qualified from Ireland has always seemed to have a good team spirit. We are pretty strong together and that's what you need for a good team."

Qualification would also leave Trapattoni holding all the cards in talks over his contract, and Hunt is desperate for him to stay.

He said: "We all enjoy winning and not losing very often no matter what team you play in. His manner speaks volumes.

"When he comes into the room, you automatically sit yourself up, 'The manager is here'. He has a presence about him, he has an aura about him.

"I would like him to stay and I am sure all the players would as well."



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