Stoke City: Glenn Whelan and Jon Walters tipped to be stronger for their Euro pain
STOKE duo Glenn Whelan and Jon Walters will be inspired, not scarred, by the Republic of Ireland's painful exit from the European Championships.
That's the belief of Stoke's first-team coach Mark O'Connor after watching the Potters pair suffer the indignity of losing all three group games in Poland and Ukraine.
"It was a fantastic experience for them to be representing both their country and their club out there," said O'Connor.
"I don't think they will be scarred by their experiences. In fact, I'm hoping it will have the opposite effect.
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"The experience of playing against Italy and Spain in a major championships would give me a greater inner confidence. I would be taking the positives, not sitting there moping.
"Their learning curve over the last year or two has been fantastic when you consider they've been to an FA Cup final, represented their club in Europe and now their country in a major tournament.
"It's obviously disappointing to lose the way they did, but I don't think anybody thought they were going to qualify from what was probably the hardest group out there.
"Croatia are going home as well and they were fantastic, especially Luka Modric.
"It's been no disgrace for Ireland, so some of the criticism has been surprising and a little over the top."
Whelan started all three of Ireland's games – a 3-1 defeat by Croatia, a 4-0 thrashing by holders Spain and then Monday's 2-0 loss to Italy. Walters had to make do with three appearances from the bench as Ireland scored one and conceded nine en route to their exit.
"Of course it was tough for Glenn," O'Connor continued, "but you can reel off the names like Iniesta, Xavi, Pirlo and Modric that he was up against.
"I thought Jon did well when he came on. He will be disappointed he didn't start any of the games, but knowing Jon he will have been delighted to have got on to the pitch."
Manager Tony Pulis will now consider whether to give both players additional time off ahead of Stoke's return for pre-season training on July 12.
Whelan started 36 times for Stoke last term and Walters 49 during the club's marathon 56-match season.
"Tony will probably ask the players how they feel," said O'Connor, "and knowing them they will probably want to come back and do just what the rest of the players are doing.
"So the manager may take the decision out of their hands and give them an extra eight to 10 days off.
"They both played a huge part in a 56-game season and have then gone on to a major competition where the concentration is intense.
"They might be fine for the first couple of months of the season, but then they could fall flat on their face if they don't have a break now."