WEST Cork’s finest soccer export, Barnsley captain Conor Hourihane, has backed the Republic of Ireland to pull off the Italian Job on Wednesday night and qualify for the knockout stages of the European Championships in France.
The former underage Irish U21 international has backed Martin O’Neill’s men to get the victory they need against Italy in Lille on Wednesday night that will see them progress from Group E into the last 16.
‘Why can’t Ireland do it? They played well against Sweden and should have beaten them, and they beat Germany in the qualifiers so this is a team capable of a big performance. This is one game, like a cup final, and the players can rise to this. We have a history of getting big results and this could be another one,’ Hourihane said.
‘I thought Ireland were very good against Sweden but Belgium were far superior last Saturday. Hopefully they’ll pull it off on Wednesday night. I have a slight feeling they might get something out of the game and it might be enough to see them through.’
Hourihane (25), from Bandon, was honoured with the Celtic Ross West Cork Sports Star of the Month award for April on Tuesday night, in recognition of becoming the first West Cork sports person to captain a winning team at Wembley, as Barnsley won the Johnstone Paint Trophy final against Oxford. Hourihane then captained the Tykes to League 1 play-off final glory against Millwall at Wembley last month as Barnsley won promotion to the Championship.
Don’t miss Thursday’s Southern Star for an interview with Conor Hourihane.