Conor Hourihane isn’t short of flexibility.
He has shone as a box-to-box midfielder under Dean Smith at Aston Villa but he is more than comfortable sitting in front of the defence too, dictating play and breaking up opposition attacks. A few years ago, he was a prolific goalscorer in the lower leagues for Barnsley and Plymouth, thriving in the freedom of a roving number ten role.
Hourihane at left-back, however, feels like a step too far.
At the age of 28, Aston Villa’s Mr Reliable was fielded in a role he’s never played before by Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy during Tuesday’s 3-1 win against Bulgaria. It was a friendly, after all, and friendlies are meant for experimentation.
But even McCarthy himself admitted after the game that Hourihane’s future lies in the centre of the park, rather than on the left of a four-man defence.
“He's never, ever going to play there because I don't think he can play there,” the Yorkshireman told Virgin Sports in typically straight-talking style.
“He wanted minutes and he asked me beforehand 'Gaffa, can I have some minutes?'. I said, 'well not in midfield because there was always going to be the others [the fringe players], but if you fancy left-back?' And he said, 'Yes, I do'. He has got a wand of a left-foot. But he's not a left-back.”
ROI fans will be breathing a sigh of relief after a performance where Hourihane looked like the very definition of a square peg in a round hole.
Didn't really work out, not used to making overlapping runs, often not on same wavelength as the LW. Only useful asset there was his crossing ability but didn't produce anything of note— Ronan (@HalaRonan) September 10, 2019
Hourihane is a guaranteed starter for sure but other than long shots and set pieces I don't see what he contributes.— SiobhanC1 (@SiobhanC1) September 10, 2019
Played at left back. Final ball was terrible in the attacking third.— Gav Mac (@VillanGav) September 10, 2019
Doesnt have the pace..was caught if position at tines as naturally he drifted into the centre.— Colin Cahalane (@ColinCahalane) September 10, 2019
Was good for him to get 60 or so mins under his belt!
Do we have to play Hourihane at lb?— daragh (@df_lfc) September 10, 2019
Hourihane at left-back for Ireland on the basis that he's got a good left foot, apparently.— james (@Jamorushton) September 10, 2019
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