Hourihane won’t take Ireland spot for granted
Conor Hourihane is refusing to accept that he is a Republic of Ireland regular as he attempts to cement his place for the upcoming crucial Euro 2020 qualifiers.
The 28-year-old Aston Villa midfielder has started all five competitive games of manager Mick McCarthy’s reign to date, one of nine men to have done so, but having suffered disappointments earlier in his career, is in no mood to take anything for granted.
Sitting alongside Preston counterpart Alan Browne, who impressed in last month’s friendly victory over Bulgaria, Hourihane was asked what it meant to him to be one of the first names on McCarthy’s teamsheet.
He said: “That’s definitely not my mindset, that’s for sure. I don’t see myself as one of the first names on the teamsheet. If you become complacent, that’s when someone pushes you out of the way.
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“People like Browney did fantastically in the game against Bulgaria and he’ll be pushing me for my place, so I know I need to be on top of my game to be on the teamsheet come Saturday.”
Hourihane’s caution is founded on his experiences during a career to date which has seen him released as a teenager by Sunderland and then Ipswich a year later before rebooting in League Two with Plymouth.
A two-and-a-half-year spell at Barnsley won him his move to Villa, for whom he scored in a 5-1 Premier League win at Norwich on Saturday to confirm his return.
It has been a long road and for that reason, even his key role in McCarthy’s qualification blueprint will not distract him from his mission to keep his feet firmly on the ground.
Ireland, who currently sit top of Group D on 11 points, travel to face Georgia in Tbilisi on Saturday and then take on Switzerland in Geneva on Tuesday.