Conor Hourihane – in the midst of a brilliant season for Aston Villa – can become a key fixture within the Republic of Ireland set-up.
When I had the time to digest last Sunday’s stunning dipping volley, it struck me that Conor Hourihane, already Aston Villa’s key central midfielder, could become a fixture within the international football scene. The thrice-capped Republic of Ireland international adds technical quality where the country’s only creative spark, Wes Hoolahan, announced his retirement from international football last week – which has opened a vacancy for which there are no stand out candidates to fill the role.
I’d make a case for Hourihane to be given a chance to be that replacement.
He scores goals, provides assists and creates chances for teammates, akin to Hoolahan, dating back to his Barnsley days. He is Villa’s second highest scorer this season with 8 league goals, oftentimes as the fifth or sixth-most advanced attacker on the pitch. When not in possession, he showcases the ability to defend as a decent ball-winner and a very rangy, mobile midfielder.
His 48 key passes this season continue as testament to his excellent play in England’s second division. Across the 2016/2017 season, Hourihane notched 7 goals and 14 assists across Barnsley and Villa.
Hourihane shows the ability to play as a number ten, and while he will not feature there for Villa, on account of Jack Grealish’s presence, he can be a regular for Ireland.
The Emerald Isle has a range of options for the midfield position like: Harry Arter, Jeff Hendrick and David Meyler, but none possess the craft and goal-scoring habit of Hourihane. An added, often undisclosed factor is that of Scott Hogan. Should the Villa striker continue his string of Ireland call-ups, the pair could conceivably build a rapport on international duty as well. While the Republic will not feature in the 2018 FIFA World Cup this summer, the nation does have a busy fall ahead of them.
Ireland was drawn with Denmark and Wales in League B of the maiden UEFA Nations League – a quasi tournament/qualifying round meant to increase the intensity of international friendlies.