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Hunt fighting to regain ground

Stephen Hunt

Stephen Hunt will hope to resume his international career against Norway tonight desperate to return to his best form.

The 29-year-old Wolves midfielder last appeared for Ireland on November 14 last year as they lost the first leg of their World Cup play-off 1-0 at Croke Park. Four days later, he was an unused substitute as Ireland's hopes of making it to South Africa were dashed with a helping hand from Thierry Henry in a controversial 1-1 draw in Paris which sent the French through.

Hunt, whose misery was compounded in February when he suffered a foot injury, said: "I was probably playing the best football of my career at the time, so that was massively disappointing."

He added: "I came back expecting to hit the ground running again, but it has been a little bit more difficult than I thought it was going to be.

"But at the same time, I am mentally strong and we will get going again.

"I have come back and have had three or four games where it has been basically about my fitness, I haven't really contributed apart from maybe when I could have scored a couple of goals.

"But I am here for Ireland now and looking forward to it."

Hunt's return to action has been testing to say the least - he resumed as a substitute in a 2-0 Barclays Premier League defeat at Chelsea, made his first start against Manchester United in the Carling Cup and has turned out against United, Arsenal and Bolton in the league since.

He said: "Either way, I have had my pre-season twice - Manchester United, Arsenal, Manchester City - it's been an easy comeback!

"It's been difficult for me, to be honest, but the more games I get, hopefully the better I will get."