Noel Hunt (born 26 December 1982 in Waterford, Republic of Ireland) is an Irish footballer, who currently plays as a striker for Football League Championship side Reading alongside his brother Stephen.
Hunt began playing junior club football in Waterford, before being signed by Damien Richardson for Premier Division club, Shamrock Rovers in Dublin in 2001, aged 18. He made his competitive debut in a 32 League Cup win over Shelbourne on 29 October 2001, and scored his first competitive goal in the same competition in January .
Rovers then loaned him out to his hometown club Waterford United where he scored five league goals in the First Division in the 2001-02 season. Scoring on his debut in December 2001 he was later embroiled in controversy as the Blues were deducted 3 points due to incorrect registration.
The following season was the last winter football season and in the shortened 27 game series, new manager Liam Buckley played Hunt and he rewarded the club by being top club goalscorer with eleven league goals and two FAI Cup goals to propel Rovers to the FAI Cup final and third place in the league.
During this time he also made his European début playing twice for the club in the UEFA Cup. His final match for Shamrock Rovers was on the last day of the season, 24 January 2003, when he was substituted to a hero's reception in a game where Rovers beat Longford Town 32 to secure a place in the UEFA Intertoto Cup. He was awarded the Shamrock Rovers Player of the Year award that season. Scored a total of 14 goals for the Hoops.
Hunt moved to Scottish Premier League club Dunfermline Athletic in a £100,000 deal on 27 January 2003, going on to win the clubs' Young Player of the Season award for the 2003-04 season. His pace and aggressive running won praise from Dunfermline supporters, but his time at the club was disrupted somewhat by a recurring knee injury. He joined Dundee United in June 2006 for £50,000, scoring his first goal on 5 August against Rangers in his second match for the club, a 22 draw. On 14 October he scored against Celtic in a 41 defeat and scored the winner against Kilmarnock in November. His goals continued with winners against St Mirren, Inverness Caledonian Thistle, and Motherwell. However, after injuring himself scoring the winner against Motherwell in December, he failed to score again until his goal in the 40 away victory over Hearts in March 2007.
In the 2007-08 season, Hunt scored three times in the opening six league matches, as well as a goal in the League Cup. On 31 October 2007 in a League Cup match against Hamilton Academical, he scored his first hat-trick for United in a 31 win. He was linked with a move to Championship club Blackpool in the January 2008 transfer window. Blackpool had a £175,000 bid turned down for Hunt. In May 2008 Blackpool were again linked with a move for Hunt.
On 23 July 2008 Noel moved to Championship side Reading for an undisclosed fee rumoured to be around £600,000. Having taken the club's number 11 shirt, recently vacated by John Oster, Hunt joined up with the squad's tour of Sweden and scored his first goal in a 3-1 win over Halmstads BK on the 29th of July.
In the absence of Reading manager Steve Coppell (who was already in Sweden), Director of Football Nicky Hammond said that although "Dundee United didn't want to lose Noel but understood his real desire to embark upon a new challenge with Reading Football Club. From my conversations with Noel, it is clear that he possesses the qualities of hunger and determination that Steve Coppell wants at this club as we attempt to regain a place in the Premier League."
He played his first competitive game for Reading FC on the 12 August 2008, scoring the deciding goal in a 2-1 win over Dagenham & Redbridge in the 1st round of the Carling Cup. He also scored on his second appearance on the 26 August 2008, scoring the first of five goals by Reading in a 5-1 result against Luton Town.Noel scored his first league goals for Reading when he scored two goals in a 6-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday.In a match against Watford in September, Hunt was involved in controversy surrounding a goal that didn't actually cross the line.
Hunt has played three times for Ireland under-21 football team, scoring once. He was named in the Republic of Ireland "B" squad on 8 November 2007, for the match against Scotland on 20 November at the Excelsior Stadium in Airdrie, which ended in a 1-1 draw.
He was called up to the senior squad for the Poland friendly in November 2008, after injuries to Robbie Keane and Aiden McGeady,making his debut in the game, coming on as a substitute on the 60th minute