This article is an interview I conducted with new Aston Villa signing Conor Hourihane back in 2012 when the West Cork native was on brief trip home and took time to present medals to West Cork Schoolboys League club Lyre Rovers.
Hourihane was the consumate pro, patiently taking time to speak to each of the individual award winners and giving ample time to a local sports jounro.
CONOR HOURIHANE GUEST OF HONOUR AT LYRE ROVERS
GER MCCARTHY REPORTS
Plymouth Argyle Captain and U21 Republic of Ireland international Conor Hourihane was in West Cork this past weekend to present members of Lyre Rovers Schoolboys and Schoolgirls with medals at the club’s end of season get-together.
MC for the afternoon and U14 Club Coach Sean Moroney introduced the various award winners before a large gathering at the West Cork club’s superb playing facilities in Lyre. Bandon-born Hourihane proved a big hit with Rovers youngest club members by patiently posing for any photograph requests and offering sound advice about the sacrifices he has made to become a professional footballer in England.
This time of year generally means pre-season for pro footballers like Conor so is he looking forward to the inevitable slog in the coming weeks and months? “Just the thought of pre-season is the worst thing about it to be honest! Some people think I’m crazy but I’m genuinely looking forward to getting back to it next week! You’d see some lads getting sick on the sidelines after the long runs alright. Long tough days of running in the morning, swimming in the afternoon and then weights in the late evening but it is all part of the life of a professional footballer”.
The Bandon native made the tough decision to leave home at the age of 16 and go across the water where spells with Sunderland and Ipswich Town eventually saw the classy midfielder sign on the dotted line for League 2 strugglers Plymouth in the hope of regular first team football.
Argyle’s well documented off-field woes are now firmly behind them having avoided relegation at the end of last season New manager and former Irish international John Sheridan taking over means Conor sees no reason why the coming season cannot be a profitable one for his club. “John (Sheridan) has been fantastic since he’s come in. He arrived with sixteen games to go and our league form in the second half of the campaign improved to the fifth best in the division. I know the Boss is anxious to add five or six new players to bolster the first-team squad and has added a couple of new faces already. We’ll be hoping to finish mid-table at least because the last two years have been tough battling it out at the bottom and fighting relegation hopefully this season will see a bug improvement”.
Plymouth obviously thinks very highly of their dedicated, ultra-professional and determined Irishman as Conor took over the Captaincy of the club from Darren Purse midway through the previous season and has retained the armband for the upcoming campaign. “You definitely need lucky breaks in your career and Darren Purse was Plymouth’s previous club Captain but left the club and I was handed the armband. These are the types of breaks you need and luckily enough I’ve done quite well since taking on the role and have retained the captaincy”.
When asked if there are extra responsibilities that come with being the club’s Captain the 22-year old delivers an honest answer and that belies his young age. “Well there are the extra media requests and also sorting out the match tickets on the morning of a game. I get 70 or 80 tickets early in the morning and have to sort out all the requests from the entire squad. Another thing is the fact that the two opposing captains from each team meet up with the referee about half an hour before the game for 10 minutes and he tells us what he expects of the two teams and gets to know us so he can call upon us during the game if needs be”.
“Another responsibility that falls on my shoulders is organising any of the few nights out during the season and having to go to the manager on the squad’s behalf to get permission! At 22 though it is a great feeling to the club captain and I love every minute of it”.
Conor began his football career playing for Bandon AFC, Douglas Hall and then the Corks Schoolboys League so any advice for the hundreds of children who tog out year after year in the SuperValu West Cork Schoolboys and Schoolgirls Leagues? “It takes a lot of dedication to make it to the very top. I can’t tell you the amount of hours I have put in by myself during the off-season. It takes all those extra hours in the gym, running on my own as there is a lot more to it than just attending regular training sessions and playing on the Saturday”.
“It takes a lot of self-belief and commitment, working hard and sometimes staying on an extra half an hour or hour after your regular training to improve on the different elements of your game. Nowadays the West Cork Schoolboys League is getting bigger and better so there is no need to move on too quickly so just be committed to everything you do and your game will improve”.
Conor Hourihane proved a big hit at Lyre Rovers this past weekend but his dedication to his craft, steely determination and self-belief means we are going to hear a lot more about this classy midfielder in the coming years.