BY DYLAN MANGAN
QUALIFYING for Euro 2024 would be a dream come true for Bandon soccer star Conor Hourihane, who says Ireland will need to be at their very best to have any chance of getting out of a tough group.
Hourihane will need to maintain his good form for Derby County to retain his place in the squad, following his omission at his club’s request for the latest international window due to fixture clashes.
Speaking to The Southern Star, Hourihane said that Ireland face an uphill battle to qualify from Group B that also contains football powers The Netherlands and France, as well as Greece and Gibraltar.
‘It’s going to be a very very difficult group,’ Hourihane said. ‘We'll be underdogs no doubt in the group but we feel like we’re in a decent place and we’ll give it our best shot as we can.
‘We’ll always give everything out there in every game so let’s just see what happens. The group is not an easy one on the eye but we’ll give it our all anyway.’
Despite the tough draw, Hourihane believes the team’s positive performances against bigger nations like Portugal bodes well for their chances against France and Holland.
‘We need to be able to step up against every opponent, especially the bigger nations,’ he said. ‘I think it’s sometimes easier to step up against the bigger nations, it gives you that extra yard to deliver your game against the top players in the world.’
Ireland have struggled to break down smaller nations, and it’s an issue they will need to solve to ensure they have the best chance possible of qualifying for the tournament.
‘Against the smaller teams sometimes we struggle to break them down but look – it’s an exciting group as well,’ Hourihane said. ‘There should be some amazing games to be a part of so we’ll deal with that come March when it starts. I’m really looking forward to it.’
With the 2022 World Cup kick off days away, playing for his country at a major tournament has always been a dream for Hourihane, with this potentially one of his last chances to do so.
‘That was one thing I wanted to be able to achieve before the end of my career, to get to a major tournament with Ireland,’ he said. ‘I’ve been in the setup now for five years or so and not quite managed to do it on a couple of occasions which has been disappointing. It’s going to be a tough task again to see if we can do it. We’ll always give everything out there at every game so let’s just see what happens.’