Conor Hourihane showcased his desire in the Republic of Ireland’s international games over the past week.
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As a professional footballer, it’s no secret that Conor Hourihane wants to play as much football as he can, as often as he can.
In the past week, Conor has been away from Villa Park and on international duty with the Republic of Ireland squad. He played a part in both of their games; a 1-1 UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier draw against Switzerland followed by a 3-1 friendly win against Bulgaria.
Against Switzerland, Hourihane registered his highest pass success rate of the season so far at 87% whilst playing in a left defensive-midfield position, whilst also managing to make five interceptions – before he was subbed off in the 83rd minute.
Fans of both Aston Villa and the Republic of Ireland were shocked in the lead up to the Bulgaria game, where there was some heavy rotation from Ireland boss Mick McCarthy, that Conor Hourihane was playing. It wasn’t the fact he was starting two games on the bounce, however, it was the fact that he was starting the game at left-back.
Initially, it looked like McCarthy was experimenting with something – perhaps seeing something in the Aston Villa midfielder after his time playing as a holding midfielder behind John McGinn and Jack Grealish – or wanting to make the most of Conor’s gorgeous left peg.
In fact, it wasn’t an attempt at a tactical masterclass by McCarthy. It was from the back of a request from Conor Hourihane.
According to McCarthy, who spoke after their 3-1 win – in which Hourihane found himself subbed off in the 69th minute – Hourihane came to his gaffer and asked for more minutes, despite playing in 83 against Switzerland.
McCarthy’s response was simple: “Not in central midfield because of the fringe players, but if you fancy left-back?”
And Hourihane’s retort was even simpler, “Yes, I do.”
Whilst Hourihane at left-back wasn’t necessarily something that might reach the shores of Northfield Beach or Costa del Solihull, it showcased the midfielder’s desire to prove himself – something he has done again and again.
If his game time at club level is limited due to the arrival of Marvelous Nakamba and Douglas Luiz, then the Irishman is willing to play as much as often for his national team – even in an unfamiliar or unnatural position – in an attempt to keep himself in the thoughts of Mick McCarthy, but also in an attempt to prove himself worthy of a starting spot under Dean Smith.