Ireland, who joined Stoke on a season long loan from Aston Villa, marked his first start for the club by scoring in Wednesday's 2-0 win in the Capital One Cup.
Hughes said: "Stephen has come in and everybody can see he is an intelligent footballer.
"He understands the game and how to affect the game in a positive manner.
"He took up some great positions in and around the opposition box and when he gets in good areas he will finish. I thought he was excellent.
"But we are still trying to get him up to speed."
The 27-year-old, who played under Hughes at Manchester City, had not featured since January prior to joining the Potters this month and his goal at Tranmere was his first since December 2011.
Hughes added: "He has missed a lot of senior football. He has not had a lot of game time and it is going to take him a little bit of time to get up to the level I know he is capable of.
"But you saw in the amount of time he had that he is going to be a good player for us."