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Dublin: 12 °C Sunday 12 July, 2020

'It's been frustrating... I've only started two games'

Ireland’s Conor Hourihane is hoping to regain his place in the Aston Villa side.

Conor Hourihane (file pic).
Conor Hourihane (file pic).
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

CONOR HOURIHANE WAS a satisfied man leaving the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday night.

The only player retained after Ireland earned what could prove a crucial 1-1 draw with Switzerland last week, he was part of a largely second-string side that kept Mick McCarthy’s unbeaten run intact amid a 3-1 win over Bulgaria.

Starting two matches in a short space of a time for his country is a stark contrast to Hourihane’s recent fate at club level.

Having achieved his longstanding dream of playing in the Premier League after featuring in Aston Villa’s opening encounter against Tottenham, since then, he has had just a 20-minute cameo in the top flight against Crystal Palace.

The Bandon native did, of course, score twice for Villa in a 6-1 win over Crewe in the League Cup, but he is determined to get more game time in the really important fixtures.

“I want to force my way in at Villa, that’s the plan, I make it no secret,” he says. “It’s been frustrating for myself — I’ve only started two games. The first game and the cup game. Villa have done well in both. Hopefully over the course of the next month — we’ve four league games I think — I’ll get as many minutes as I can heading into the international window.”

Game time, more than anything else, was the reason why Hourihane lined out in the unfamiliar role of left-back against the Bulgarians. McCarthy put the idea to him ahead of the low-key fixture, and the 28-year-old was more than happy to give it a go.

It was alright. Myself and the gaffer had a conversation the other day about maybe playing there.

“I said ‘of course’. With the faith he’s shown in me, I’ll play anywhere for him. So I was delighted to play there.

“I asked for minutes. I didn’t want him to think after the Switzerland game, that was me done. I wanted to play again. We had a conversation. He said ‘what about left-back?’ I said: ‘Yeah, no problem.’”

Hourihane also praised the performance of debutants Jack Byrne and Josh Cullen, who deputised for him in midfield, while looking ahead to a tough encounter next month with Georgia, after the group’s fourth seeds earned a surprise 0-0 draw with Denmark in Tbilisi on Sunday. 

We were all keeping an eye on it, of course. To get that result was great for us, I suppose, but it shows how hard it is to go there and get a result.

“Denmark are a very good side. For Georgia to hold them to 0-0, they’re no mugs, so it’s going to be tough over there, but we’ll be going there with a bit of confidence behind us after these two good results this week.”

With the warm-up games out of the way, Murray, Bernard and Gavan discuss the renewed cause for optimism, impressive individual player form, and a potential quarter-final versus either South Africa or New Zealand.

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Paul Fennessy

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