Player Profile #4 - Conor Hourihane - the Corkman who always knew he'd play at the top

Player Profile #4 - Conor Hourihane - the Corkman who always knew he'd play at the top

Conor Hourihane - a classy footballer who has a very tough decision on his hands.

For whatever reason, we don't associate Irish footballers with elegance on the pitch. A classy touch or calmness on the ball doesn't come to mind.

Obviously there are loads of exceptions, but the stereotypical Irish footballer is one that is a tough-tackler. Hard in a challenge, and never willing to give up.

But Conor Hourihane is different. Despite idolising Roy Keane growing up in Cork, he doesn't play all that like him on the pitch. At least not when it comes to defending.

He's a gorgeous passer of the ball, with a set-piece delivery that rivals anyone in Europe's. His strike of the ball is so good that he would be an asset to any team, purely because of the goal threat he can possess.

Last season, and in earlier parts of this season, you'd watch him play for a very decent Aston Villa side, and he didn't look out of place.

He complimented Jack Grealish's style really well, and it just made you long for a midfield international trio that could have been Declan Rice, Grealish and Hourihane.

But for reasons we won't go into today (as we don't to start crying), that's not the case. And sadly, things weren't really working out for him at Villa either, so he headed off to Swansea on loan, where he has been tearing up the Championship.

Conan Doherty of The Villa Podcast feels as though he has to be playing in the Premier League, and fondly remembers some of his finest moments in a Villa jersey.

"Conor Hourihane is definitely better than Championship level. Even before he got dropped from the team this season, he scored and assisted against Fulham but never featured for another two months after that.

"I don't need to detail his attributes that make him so effective, everyone knows them, but what I will say is that he has one of the coolest heads I've witnessed in a Villa jersey in recent history. That screamer he scored against West Brom when he saved Villa in the play-off semis, you knew that was a goal as it was rolling out to him. Everyone knew. He knew. He's a big moment player who seems to thrive when things are in the balance."

However, he believes that he isn't going to be at Villa next season, as he simply isn't at the level they want to be at.

"I think he's a lower half Premier League player who can decide important matches with massive game-changing involvements but he needs to be in a team with most possession as to not expose him for pace or attention.

"He can control games with his passing and willingness to take the ball and look forward and that's why he was always brought back in after a while whenever he lost his place. He makes up for what he doesn't give you.

"But the question here is that would Hourihane be near the Spurs squad? Villa have ambitious owners and management, they've leapt from being 8 points behind safety with 4 games to go last year to flirting with ideas of a European push this season.

"Next season, they have to - and want to - be serious about pushing Everton and Spurs and Leicester and players in the first-team at the minute will find themselves under real pressure to keep their place. And that means there's probably not going to be a place for Hourihane."

That won't phase Hourihane though. He will have options, whether Swansea (who are currently in the playoff spots of the Championship) go up or not. His ability will make sure of that.

But funnily enough, by playing in the Championship, Conor Hourihane has proven he is a Premier League level player. And he always knew he would be.

Make sure to check on Monday for a new player profile!