Despite what many Aston Villa fans would have you believe, Conor Hourihane has enjoyed a very productive season for the Birmingham club. The midfielder has enjoyed somewhat of a down spell in his last few outings, but he still had four goals and nine assists to his name entering today's clash with Derby County.
That was not enough for some Villa fans, however, who had been questioning his place in the team. There was a chorus of ironic cheers at Villa Park when the player was substituted in the 2-0 loss to West Brom two weeks ago, and their patience with Hourihane had worn thin.
He silenced many of those doubters today. Playing in a midfield three alongside Glenn Whelan and Jack Grealish, the Cork man was utilised in a more advanced role than we have grown accustomed to. He took full advantage of his move further up the pitch inside the opening ten minutes, getting on the end of a well executed Villa attack to give his side the lead.
Abraham doubled Villa's lead just a few minutes later, before turning provider once again for Hourihane. This one was almost a carbon copy of his first goal, although there was a bit more work for the Ireland international to do before tucking away the chance.
The match would ultimately finish 4-0 to the hosts, with Hourihane playing a major part in the victory. Some Villa fans were quick to call out those who had berated the midfielder only a couple of weeks prior.
Hoping everyone who has been laying into Hourihane the past few weeks sat quietly as his goals went in !! #avfc
— Steven Baker (@Baker_AVFC) March 2, 2019
Great ball in from Hourihane that.
I know loads of the fans don’t like him, but I love him! #AVFC
— Phil Roberts (@iamVilla) March 2, 2019
HOURIHANE YOU LEGEND. Always said it!!! #AVFC
— Evan 🦁 (@McGinnAndTonic) March 2, 2019
Hourihane plays miles better with Grealish, like as if his confidence does be sky high, also nice to see him scoring again
— James Montgomery (@JamesMonty1996) March 2, 2019
I hope the Hourihane boo boys are enjoying his performance. Not been at his best recently but this is impressive.
— Tom Whitwam 💜💙🦁 (@WamWhit) March 2, 2019
Hourihane is rubbish though 😂😂 he don’t credited enough.. very decent player for us comes up with goals and assists every season! He’s used as a scapegoat when things going bad! UTV #avfc
— Aston Villa Updates (@AstonVilla_info) March 2, 2019
With Ireland's opening Euro 2020 Qualifiers only three weeks away, Hourihane appears to be hitting form at the right time. He will be competing with the likes of Harry Arter, Jeff Hendrick and Alan Browne for a place in the Irish midfield, bit a couple more performances such as this would make him very difficult to ignore.