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'I love going back to Bandon. You see people you played GAA with and just have a chat with them'

Conor Hourihane will play in the Premier League for the first time this season at the age of 28.

Ireland midfielder Conor Hourihane.
Ireland midfielder Conor Hourihane.
Image: Tim Goode

CONOR HOURIHANE HAS experienced a long journey to get to the Premier League but will finally play in England’s top tier at the age of 28 this season as he prepares to enjoy a lifelong, childhood dream.

The Ireland international was instrumental as Aston Villa finished fifth last season, with Dean Smith’s side coming out on top a nail-biting Championship play-off final against Derby County at Wembley.

The Cork native scored seven goals and chipped in with 11 assists last campaign, including a wonder-strike against West Brom in the play-off semi-finals, and signed a new long-term deal at Villa Park last month.

“I’m delighted. We’re gearing up for it now and I’ve been hugely excited about it. It’s all new to myself, so it’s really exciting,” he said speaking to the BBC about finally making it to the Premier League.

The Rebel County has a strong tradition of footballers making it to the Premier League, including Roy Keane, Denis Irwin and David Meyler. Hourihane, however, is proud at becoming the first West Cork native to make it.

“A lot of hard work, a lot of dedication, a lot of sacrifices, a bit of luck along the way, as everyone needs,” he said when asked how he had risen through the divisions to make it to the top tier. 

“It’s been a long journey and a fantastic journey, a lot of ups and downs. But I’m 28-years-old and finally got here. It’s great.”

Conor Hourihane Hourihane in action against Gibraltar at the Aviva Stadium. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Villa have spent over £100 million on new recruits so far this summer, with high expectations coming this season, especially after Wolves’ impressive first campaign back in the top tier last season, where they finished seventh and secured European football.

“I think that [staying up] has to be the first goal for us, first and foremost,” Hourihane said. “We don’t want a situation again where we get relegated. That would just be a disaster, really. Everyone knows that.

“First and foremost, if we stay up, that’s a big, big plus because we can build on that going forward. Obviously I know with the amount of money we’ve spent and with the expectations of the fans, they’re going to expect more than that.

“We’ll have our own targets and goals that we want to reach and hopefully over the course of the season, our expectations and the expectations outside the club will get to somewhere that everyone is happy with.”

When asked what life was like when he got to chance to return home to Ireland, the midfielder said: “Do you know what, it’s actually alright. Where I live, everyone has sort of bought into the town and it’s fantastic to be there.

“It’s not like ‘Oh look at Conor, he’s at Aston Villa’ or whatever. It’s more like ‘Oh, Conor’s back, let’s have a chat with him and see how things are going’. It’s very laid back.

“That’s why I love going back [to Bandon], people leave you to it. You see people that you played GAA with or that you went to school with growing up, and you just have a chat with them. That’s why I like going back.”

The playmaker said he was relishing the opportunity to test himself against the best of the best, especially against European champions Liverpool and Premier League champions Man City.

“I think they’re a step ahead of everyone at the minute. They’ve got so many fantastic players, both squads are absolutely electric.

“Attacking-wise and defensively they’re so good as well. So to test myself against them and those sort of teams will be great.”

You can listen to the full interview on the BBC here.

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About the author:

Aaron Gallagher

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