Conor Hourihane: Is in-demand Barnsley man the Championship's best midfielder?

Barnsley's Conor Hourihane celebrates after winning the Sky Bet Football League One Play-Off Final

Linked to the likes of Sheffield Wednesday and Aston Villa, Hourihane tops Barnsley's assists, passing accuracy, completed passes and chances created charts.

Sources at HITC have recently revealed that there is an interest in Barnsley captain Conor Hourihane from both the Tykes rivals, Sheffield Wednesday, and Championship side Aston Villa.

Sheffield Wednesday, who recently recruited Hourihane's team mate Sam Winnall, are in need of a combative, goal-scoring central midfield player, as they look to cement their place in the Championship play-offs. Aston Villa on the other hand, are still working their way up towards the play-offs, with many Villa fans calling for an extra leader to be added to the heart of their team. 

As Conor Hourihane ticks all these boxes, it's no surprise to see the midfielder linked with these clubs, but just who is the Republic of Ireland international? HITC Sport gives you the lowdown on the most in form midfielder in the Championship.

Barnsley's Conor Hourihane (L) in action with Norwich City's Graham DorransBarnsley's Conor Hourihane (L) in action with Norwich City's Graham Dorrans

Starting his career with Sunderland, Conor Hourihane has taken a while to break onto the forefront of English football. Failing to make an appearance for the Black Cats, as well as for his next club Ipswich Town, Hourihane found himself joined Plymouth Argyle in 2011, in League Two. 

He became the club's captain during the 2012–13 season following the departure of Darren Purse, and signed a new two-year contract in May 2013. Hourihane impressed for Plymouth in the 2013/14 season, starting 53 games, missing only one match all season because of suspension, scoring nine goals in the process.

Plymouth Argyle's Conor Hourihane (L) in action with Torquay United's Billy BodinPlymouth Argyle's Conor Hourihane (L) in action with Torquay United's Billy Bodin

After making 125 appearances for Argyle, and scoring 15 goals during his time their, the Green Army's Captain departed for Barnsley, joining the Tykes in June 2014. After making an impressive start at Oakwell, Hourihane earned the League One Player of the Month award in August, and was named the club's Captain in December 2014, winning over both the Barnsley fans, players and staff alike. 

Conor Hourihane celebrates scoring for BarnsleyConor Hourihane celebrates scoring for Barnsley

In his second season with Barnsley, Hourihane helped guide the Tykes to two trophies, both won at Wembley. The first visit to was on the 3 April 2016 for the Football League Trophy, which Barnsley won 3-2, beating Oxford United.

The second visit to Wembley came on the 29th May 2016, for the Football League One play-offs final. Thanks to goals from Fletcher, Hammil and Isgrove, Barnsley won promotion to the Championship, after beating Millwall 3-1.

Barnsley's Conor Hourihane celebrates with the trophy  after winning the Sky Bet Football League One Play-Off Final

Barnsley's Conor Hourihane celebrates after winning the Sky Bet Football League One Play-Off FinalBarnsley's Conor Hourihane celebrates after winning the Sky Bet Football League One Play-Off Final

So far this season, Hourihane has been one of the stand out performers in the Championship. Scoring 5 goals in his first 19 appearances, including a stunning free-kick against Queens Park Rangers, Hourihane has been not only a goal threat, but a sensational performer in every role required of a central midfielder.

Picking up 10 assists for Barnsley (more than anyone in the side), as well as creating 44 chances so far this season, Hourihane has been a major part of Barnsley's goal scoring success this season. However, the midfielder has also recorded over 722 completed passes so far this season, with an 81% completed pass accuracy, according to Squawka. The midfielder also holds to his name the highest shot percentage of anyone in his team (75% from 24 attempts), proving himself to be a constant goal threat when on the field

Barnsley's Conor Hourihane scores his sides second goal from a free kickBarnsley's Conor Hourihane scores his sides second goal from a free kick

With statistics like these, and only 6 months left on his current deal, Barnsley are very likely to be facing a tough battle to keep hold of the Republic of Ireland midfielder this season. But which lucky team will be the first to snag his signature? The future of this midfield star is certainly worth keeping an eye on this January.

Barnsley's Conor HourihaneBarnsley's Conor Hourihane

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