The 27-year old midfielder, on a season-long loan from Aston Villa, opened the scoring in the 22nd minute of Stoke's 2-0 Capital One Cup third round triumph at Tranmere Rovers before Peter Crouch added a second late in the piece.
The performance of Ireland, who previously starred for Manchester City under Hughes, was not lost on his manager.
"I was really pleased for Stephen because he is desperate to do well here. I thought he was excellent," he said.
"He got tired and we had to take him off but he got his goal and that was reward for a good time out on the pitch."