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'You have to show character and mental strength' - Hourihane silences Villa jeers

The Republic of Ireland midfielder scored twice in Saturday’s victory against Derby County.

Aston Villa's Conor Hourihane.
Aston Villa's Conor Hourihane.
Image: Bradley Collyer

CONOR HOURIHANE INSISTS that he never doubted himself despite being a target for criticism from Aston Villa supporters.

The Republic of Ireland midfielder has come under fire from his own club’s fans recently, as evidenced by the ironic cheers that greeted his substitution during a 2-0 home defeat to West Bromwich Albion last month.

In Saturday’s game against Derby County, he responded emphatically by scoring twice in a 4-0 victory at Villa Park.

As well as being the club’s leading assist-maker (9) in the Championship this season, Hourihane has scored six times — a tally only bettered at Villa by on-loan Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham.

“They [the fans] pay their money so they can have their own opinions. No problem,” Hourihane told The Birmingham Mail. “Now we’re all heroes again and that’s football. One week you can be a villain, the next week you can be a hero, so it’s part and parcel.”

Hourihane, who joined Villa from Barnsley in January 2017, will hope to be included when Mick McCarthy names his Republic of Ireland squad on Thursday for the upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers against Gibraltar and Georgia.

Since his senior international debut came two years ago this month in a friendly against Iceland, Hourihane has won eight caps for the Boys in Green. The most recent of those came in the goalless draw with Northern Ireland back in November.

George Saville with Conor Hourihane Hourihane tangling with Northern Ireland's George Saville. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“I felt I played a lot better last week [against Stoke City] after what happened against West Brom,” said Hourihane, who started his career in England with Sunderland, before moving on to Ipswich Town and Plymouth Argyle.

“I felt I played a lot better against Derby too. You have to take the ups and downs and try to stay in the middle because it can change for you quickly. You have to show character and mental strength.

“I’ve had a half-decent career, played a lot of games consistently over the past few years so I must be doing something right. I always think when I’m going through a tough patch, just work even harder, never doubt yourself, keep self-belief as high as possible and you’ll come through the good patches and the bad patches.”

Despite winning just three times in their last 15 outings in the Championship, Saturday’s result against Derby has left Aston Villa just six points adrift of the promotion play-off places.

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Paul Dollery

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