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Dublin: 12 °C Tuesday 19 March, 2019

Championship star 'needs to do more' to get in Ireland reckoning

Roy Keane says Conor Hourihane still has to convince Martin O’Neill that he’s worth a place in the team.

Conor Hourinhane has impressed for Barnsley in the Championship this season.
Conor Hourinhane has impressed for Barnsley in the Championship this season.
Image: Dave Howarth

ROY KEANE SAYS Conor Hourihane “needs to do more” to get in the Ireland reckoning.

The Cork-born midfielder has starred for Barnsley this season, winning the Championship Player of the Month for September.

Yet the 25-year-old clearly still has plenty of work to do to put himself in contention at international level, with Hourihane cut from the final Ireland squad on Monday after being named in the provisional selection.

Keane praised the player’s recent form, but suggested that one or two below-par performances while the Irish management were in attendance harmed his chances of selection.

Martin (O’Neill’s) gone to see him in one or two of the games where he’s probably not had his better games. I saw him one or two months back where he probably didn’t have one of his better games either. I think it was against Reading.

“Not that we’re just judging him on the 90 minutes we’re watching him. But sometimes when we go watch him, particularly with the manager, you need to see him step up to the plate.

He’s been in a few provisional squads, he’s doing well. I know the situation at Barnsley where the contract’s (nearly) up, he’s probably looking to move on maybe, but Barnsley’s been a good club for him. He probably needs to do a touch more — and I mean that in all aspects of his game.

“But I’m not surprised to see him making a living out of the game and doing really well and every time, particularly over the last year or two, the club he’s been at he affects games. He’s either involved in a goal or he’s scoring. He’s probably had a quiet month or two, a slight dip in form, but he’s definitely one we’ll continue to watch.”

Andy Boyle Andy Boyle pictured during Ireland training yesterday. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

And while Hourihane missed out ultimately, Dundalk duo Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle made the 28-man travelling party.

The pair are not expected to feature in Austria, as O’Neill seldom picks inexperienced players for crucial matches. Nevertheless, Keane did not rule out the prospect of the duo figuring in Vienna.

“I’d like to think that we would believe and all the players involved would believe they have a chance of starting on Saturday and that includes the players you just mentioned.

They’re in the squad on merit. We’re not looking at a friendly in a few months. The reality is we’re looking at the next game. It’ll be nice to see them training close up the next day or two and you’d like to think they have a chance of starting. Why not? They’re playing against really good players in Europe.

“There’s always been a question mark over fitness levels, but not with these players and other players in the League of Ireland. That’s a big hurdle they’ve got over the last few years, so that wouldn’t be a big issue.

“Is it a big ask for them? Probably, but you only find out when you throw them in. I’ve seen them in Europe playing against really good players and they’ve coped well.

Even other players who’ve been brought in. Young Callum (O’Dowda) as well. You can’t beat watching a lad close up. You get to see their body shapes better, how they cope with playing against lads who are playing in the Premier League. So we have a better idea the next few years how far these players have come.”

Keane also played down suggestions that Horgan and Boyle need to move to an English club in order to advance their respective careers.

I bought one or two League of Ireland players over the years — David Meyler, Roy O’Donovan, it’s a big ask for them. But the benefits they have playing in Europe on their fitness certainly helps.

“So I think it’ll be an interesting few months for these lads and I’m sure they’ll have options. That’s the rewards they’re getting of doing well in Europe.

If Dundalk are getting investment in the club properly with the money they’re getting in Europe, who’s to say they’re not happy and settled here and they’ll get the contracts they want?

“(Richie) Towell went over (to play in England) last year, got one or two injuries, it’s not quite happened for him, so it’s not this fantasy.”

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Paul Fennessy

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