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Ireland's confidence soaring - Hunt

Stephen Hunt is confident Ireland's unbeaten end to the season will spur the team on to greater things when hostilities are resumed.

Giovanni Trapattoni's squad met up following the end of the Barclays Premier League campaign last month facing Carling Nations Cup clashes with Northern Ireland and Scotland, a tough Euro 2012 qualifier in Macedonia and a glamour friendly against the Italian's native country in Liege, Belgium.

Hunt said: "The last two weeks, four wins in a row and four clean sheets is a good achievement - it's not a good achievement, it's a great achievement. No matter who you are playing against, it's nice to keep clean sheets. It breeds confidence and we move on to the next one."

Tuesday's win over Italy, which came courtesy of goals from Keith Andrews and substitute Simon Cox either side of half-time, was all the more creditable as it was achieved without most of Trapattoni's bigger names, and with some of the men initially selected having withdrawn with knocks, much to the Italian's frustration.

He made a point of saluting Hunt and central defender Darren O'Dea, who both started at the Maurice Dufrasne Stadium despite being major doubts with problems picked up in Skopje.

However, the Wolves midfielder was diplomatic when asked about the matter, although he warned the stay-aways that they will have a fight on their hands to force themselves back into contention.

He said: "Listen, the ones who didn't turn up, it has been made a great deal of, but they will be back fighting for places like we did last night, and the ones who have been here have done themselves no harm at all. It's up to the manager, but the ones who are here have done very well, make no mistake about it."

Hunt was one of the few men to play in all four games and he started the last three, a welcome end to a season severely interrupted by injury.

But his bravery in Belgium came at a cost.

He said: "My Achilles is screaming, I can tell you that now, I was in bits. But I will have a couple of weeks off now. To be honest, I'm gutted the season has finished. I would rather continue it because I haven't played that many games, so I am fresh as a daisy."

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