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Conor Hourihane: I still have...

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Conor Hourihane: I still have that fear of failure, of letting down family

Jake O'Donnell
Jake O'Donnell

03:44 6 Jun 2019


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Released from Sunderland as a teenager and playing in League Two in his mid-twenties, it would be easy for a player such as Conor Hourihane to spend his career journeying through the lower levels of British football.

However, when he signed for Plymouth Argyle in England’s fourth division, Hourihane knew it was the “last chance saloon” to save himself from becoming, in his words, a "failure".

That is not to say that all those who don’t make it in the ultra-competitive business of professional football are failures, but it is that thinking that continues to motivate Hourihane as he navigates his first season in the Premier League.

“There’s a huge fear of failure for me which still kind of pushes me on today if I'm being honest with you”, Hourihane told Ger Gilroy and Kieran Donaghy on Thursday’s Shot Clock.

“I always had that fear of coming, y’know, back to Bandon and being that guy who walks down the street and people go ‘Oh he used to be in England but he didn't make it.’”

Things didn’t work out at Sunderland, the club he left his Bandon home for at 16. Neither did they work at Ipswich. Hence, when Hourihane arrived at League Two side Plymouth he made it his sole purpose in life to succeed at that level.

He explained his thinking at the time: “It was a case of this is my last chance saloon or else I am going to be - in my eyes - that failure letting down my family, y'know, and it was sink or swim really for myself.”

“I left no stone unturned. I was in on my days off to make it work. That was probably the real start of my journey and I’ve kept that mental attitude the whole way through over the last eight years and lucky for me it's helped me on my rise up until today.”

His success on the pitch and attitude played a big role in him being named Plymouth’s captain for the 2012/13 season and when the opportunity arose to join Barnsley at the end of the following season he had to listen to what he describes as his “selfish mindset”.

“Whatever it took for me to make a success of myself I was willing to take it”, the 28-year-old said.

Hourihane’s "selfish mindset" does not exist to disservice anyone but rather it is how he describes his decision to focus his priorities on his own well-being on the football pitch.

“In my career when you have one of those good days yes you have to savour it but in my mind, 'I'm like right on to the next day, on to the next session what do I have to do to recover to be ready for the next game.' It's a really relentless cycle, y’know.

“Even now, when I have my foot well in the door in soccer in England I still have that fear now and maybe not making it at Villa or Ireland or whatever. And not letting my family down as well. Mum and dad, they gave up so many hours. After work dad would drive me to whatever edge of Cork for a training session.

"It’s still hugely for them really.”

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Aston Villa Barnsley Conor Hourihane FAI Football Association Of Ireland Ireland Plymouth Argyle

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