BANDON soccer star Conor Hourihane would swap his Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final winner’s medal for League 1 play-off final glory this Sunday.
The Barnsley captain led the Tykes to Johnstone’s Paint Trophy success at Wembley in early April, and he is back at the world-famous stadium, again, this Sunday when he leads his team into the League 1 play-off final against Millwall.
Promotion to the English Championship is up for grabs, and West Cork’s finest soccer export has his sights set on a glorious end to the season.
‘The prize at the end of this is fantastic,’ Hourihane (25) told The Southern Star during his short trip home to Bandon last weekend.
‘The club got £500,000 for winning the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final but I think it’s worth £8 million if we win the play-off final on Sunday. The prize is so big – Championship football next season – and we’ll do all we can to get over the line.
‘This is a bigger game than the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final, without a doubt. You’d swap that winner’s medal for a League 1 promotion final winner’s medal.
‘Winning the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final was a special day and a fantastic occasion for the club, but to win promotion off the back of a season’s work, would be a lot more satisfying. If you get promoted, you earned it over the season – and it would be fantastic if we can do that at Wembley on Sunday.’
Former Bandon AFC and Douglas Hall underage ace Hourihane (pictured) has been in sparkling form for Barnsley again this season, scoring 11 goals and assisting a further 17 as he inspired his side into the play-offs and the 6-1 aggregate semi-final win against Walsall.
He feels Barnsley are in good form at the right time of the season and that their good experience of Wembley – when winning the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final in April – will help them this Sunday (3pm kick-off).
‘Winning there a few weeks ago will definitely help, especially with the build-up – we know what’s involved, how it will impact our training this week, what the pitch is like, how the days runs,’ Hourihane explained.
‘We have been through this before so that might give us an edge but ultimately it’s all about what happens on the pitch on Sunday.
‘We beat Millwall twice (home and away) during the league but that doesn’t count for anything in a one-off game like Sunday.’
Former Republic of Ireland U21 international Hourihane added: ‘We have been playing some good stuff in the last few games. Around the time of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final we weren’t playing great, but we were digging out 1-0 results.
‘Over the last few games we’ve played well – we scored six goals against Walsall over two legs, we scored four against Wigan (League 1 champions) on the final day of the league to get into the play-offs, so we are full of confidence for Sunday.’