Norwich City’s Irish brigade out to make history at Euro 2016

Norwich City midfielder Wes Hoolahan is closing in on his Euro 2016 bow for the Republic of Ireland.

Norwich City midfielder Wes Hoolahan is closing in on his Euro 2016 bow for the Republic of Ireland. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Norwich City goalkeeping coach and former Republic of Ireland stalwart Dean Kiely is backing Robbie Brady and Wes Hoolahan to enjoy another Irish fairytale at Euro 2016.

Jack Charlton's vintage carved out their own special niche by reaching the later stages of the 1988 European Championships and the World Cups of 1990 and 1994. Martin O'Neill's men begin their quest on Monday, against Sweden in Paris, in a group also featuring Belgium and Italy, but Kiely insists it would be foolish to write off the underdogs.

'That could work in our favour when you look at Belgium, with their ranking in the world and Italy is always up there,' he said. 'You think of Italy as a super powerhouse of world football but on current form I don't think that fits the reality. That ingredient could play into Ireland's hands.

'You look at the previous Euros and Ireland bowed out without putting up a great fight. Everyone came home a little bit deflated. Martin O'Neill has brought a tremendous enthusiasm and buzz around the team. With Robbie Brady and Wes Hoolahan at our place when they go away they come back really positive about the set-up and the feeling. When I was part of it Mick McCarthy created that club feel and culture and I certainly think Martin has created the same. In the qualifying groups when people saw who they got it was taken for granted Ireland would be scrapping out with Scotland. Ireland did well to get out of the group and then beat a decent Bosnia side in the play-offs.'

Kiely expects the Republic fans to travel in huge numbers.

'With it being so close to France, the supporters will travel en masse. It will be a great occasion,' he said. 'Win, lose or draw it will be some party. It is within easy reach for the fans and they will support the team. It is a tough group but one the Republic can relish. There are some great games. You can look at the groups and say perhaps who should go through but not everything runs to form at these tournaments.'