Ireland moved to Stoke last month on-loan from Aston Villa.
Hughes said: "We are trying to get him up to speed but he has missed a lot of football and needs game time.
"It will take time to get him up to the level I know that he is capable of. I'm pleased he's reminding people of what a good player he is, though. People can see that he's a quality player.
"He was desperate for the opportunity to come and I've worked with him before, so he knew that we will look after him, understand him and get the best out of him like we did before."