Farewell for now Conor Hourihane!
DUH DUH DUH DUH DUH DUH CONOR HOURIHANE!
On the 26th of January 2017, Aston Villa announced the acquisition of Barnsley’s midfielder Conor Hourihane. The Irishman joined on a three and a half year deal at a cost of around £3million. Villa’s prayers for a goal scoring midfielder were finally answered and Hourihane soon worked his way into the hearts of the claret and blue faithful.
His debut campaign brought one goal in seventeen games, first pulling on the shirt in a 3-0 away defeat to Brentford. He started and played the full ninety minutes, picking up his first yellow card. Hourihane bagged his first goal for Villa against Bristol City in a 2-0 home win. Villa ended the season in 13th, a disappointing but arguably necessary midtable finish in the club’s first season in the Championship.
August 2017 saw a maiden hattrick, the midfield maestro netting three times against Norwich City, slotting home his first and hitting two from outside the box. Villa’s #14 added eight other goals in the 2017/18 season, finishing on eleven in forty-six matches.
2017 also saw Hourihane’s debut for the Republic of Ireland, for whom he has played twenty-four times, scoring once. His debut came in a friendly vs Iceland in March, which the Icelandics won 1-0.
His first full season ended in play off heartbreak as Steve Bruce’s men went down 1-0 losers to Fulham, who proceeded to spend over £100m and still get relegated. Aston Villa strolled to a fourth placed finish, never looking like they’d drop out if the playoffs but only breaking into the top two once.
Hourihane’s season highlight was a superb half volley which looped over David Stockdale and into the Birmingham City net. The midfielder was Villa’s second top scorer with ten, seven behind Albert Adomah in all competitions.
2018/19 had a much happier ending as Dean Smith led his side to the playoffs for the second season in a row but managed to one-up Steve Bruce by beating Derby in the final and gaining promotion to the Premier League.
The 29 year old was instrumental in Villa’s promotion. Thirty-four matches and seven goals propelled Villa up the table, including his screamer in the Play Off semifinal to equalise, before Tammy Abraham’s penalty earned a 2-1 win.
Hourihane scored three during the famous ten wins in a row, netting once in a 2-1 win against Bristol City, and twice in the game which started it all, the 4-0 win over Derby County. His set pieces provided invaluable assists and that magical left foot powered Dean Smith’s men to the promised land.
As a reward for his role, Hourihane signed a new three year deal in the summer of 2019.
2019 saw the awakening of a sleeping giant, Hourihane and Villa were back in the top flight, the Irishman was looking to make his mark having not played when at Sunderland. Hourihane’s Premier League debut against Tottenham gave him the impressive record of playing in each of England’s top four leagues.
Plymouth Argyle were his League 2 representatives from 2011 to 2014, moving to Barnsley in League One and then the Championship from 2014 to 2017 and then Aston Villa in the Premier League. He also played for Ipswich in the Championship in 2010/11 and was on the books at Sunderland in 2009/10.
The set piece king bagged three Premier League goals in twenty-seven goals in the 2019/20 season, including a fantastic free kick against Bruce’s Newcastle, a game in which he also got an assist. His first top flight goal came in the 5-1 away win over Norwich, the first time Villa showed what were capable of when at their best. His third goal in the league came against Norwich again, scoring the winner in a huge boxing day tie which the Villans won 1-0.
He added four more goals in seven more games in the FA Cup and EFL Cup, six of these coming as Villa reached the final but lost to Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley.
The 2020/21 season has been less memorable, with only four league games and one in the EFL Cup, adding one goal to his tally. It had been rumoured over the past few months that Conor’s time at Villa Park was coming to an end. The form of Douglas Luiz, the undroppable John McGinn and the impressive on loan Ross Barkley left him struggling for game time.
Swansea swooped in in January 2021 and brought him in to strengthen their ranks and aid in their own title fight.
HOURIHANE VILLA RECORD:
YELLOW CARDS: 25
RED CARDS: 0
Thank you for everything Conor and all the best for your time on loan and for wherever your future may be.