At 35 years of age and almost two decades into his footballing career, Glenn Whelan has arguably had his finest season with Aston Villa in 2018/2019.
The Irish international was massive as Villa jumped from 13th in the Championship table, to 5th and eventually into the playoff final where they saw off Derby County to return to the Premier League for the first time in three seasons.
35 league appearances this season, Whelan’s reintegration into the starting XI coincided with Villa’s upturn in fortunes and the midfielder featured in every game during their 10-match win streak at the tail end of the campaign.
Whelan’s return to club form also represented a road back into the international setup having previously retired, or been retired (depending on who you ask) at the end of 2018 under Martin O’Neill.
In his first match back against Georgia in March, Whelan started in a role just ahead of the back four and controlled the game, impressing as Ireland ran out 1-0 winners.
Speaking as Ireland returned from their training camp in Portugal, Mick McCarthy outlined that Whelan is still certainly in his immediate plans and gave an insight into why he feels he has played at such a high level for so long.
“When I came they told me he’d retired, obviously, he hadn’t and he told me he had been retired. He was brilliant, it was an outstanding performance against Georgia and he’s been really good this season.
“Look if he keeps playing like that (he’ll keep playing). I have to say, when he trained with us, we were having a pretty good session and then we were just stretching off and he said, ‘I actually want to do a bit more’ and he went and put a bit more work in himself. I thought ‘yeah, that’s why you’ve played until 35, you train hard, look after yourself.’
“He’s in great shape so if he keeps playing like that, he can play as long as he wants.”
Whelan didn’t start Villa’s playoff final win over Derby at the weekend, but his Irish teammate Conor Hourihane was one of the standout performers in the middle for Dean Smith’s side.
McCarthy also outlined that he believes the duo will stay at Villa Park next season and that having the pair in the Premier League will be a big boost for the Irish setup in general.
“Yeah unfortunately it’s a bittersweet one when you get promotion because you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen in terms of transfer policy but the way the two of them have played it wouldn’t surprise me if Glenn was still there and played in the Premier League the way he just keeps carrying on and I think Conor has been excellent this year, he certainly was for us.
“So if they’re both playing it’ll be great, it’ll be good for them and it’ll be good for me.”