CONOR Hourihane isn’t pressing the panic button as he becomes a free agent this summer.
The Bandon football star (31) is out of contract in a few months when his Aston Villa deal ends – and he admits it’s highly unlikely that he will return to the Premier League club he joined in January 2017.
This will be the first time in his career that he will be out of contract, but the Republic of Ireland midfielder is calm about the situation.
He is currently on loan with Sheffield United in the Championship, and helping the Blades win promotion to the Premier League is his immediate focus before deciding his next move.
‘That Villa chapter is probably done,’ the West Cork man said earlier this week, as he prepares for the Republic of Ireland friendlies against Belgium and Lithuania.
‘There’s been nothing, to be honest with you. No conversations there so we’ll see what happens in the summer.’
Hourihane’s last game for Villa was a Carabao Cup win against Barrow in August 2021 before he joined Sheffield United on loan. After a shaky start under then Blades boss Slavisa Jokanovic, Hourihane has found his feet under current manager Paul Heckingbottom, who he worked with at Barnsley.
‘When I went on loan for the season with Sheffield United, I wanted to do well,’ Hourihane explained.
‘Since the new manager has come in, I feel I’ve played well under him. We had a previous relationship at Barnsley and I’ve been in the team. We’re on a good run and are up to fifth in the table.
‘I’ve been quite casual about what happens at the end of the season. It’s the first time in my career, fortunately enough for me, that I’ve been out of contract.
‘It’s important for me to keep playing well for Sheffield United, the same for Ireland. If I break into the team over these two games and get some minutes, we’ll see what happens come the summer.’
Hourihane is hoping for match minutes in this upcoming international home double-header, with world number one Belgium first up this Saturday (5pm).
‘Stephen (Kenny) has been great with me. Since he’s come in, I’ve been in pretty much every squad,’ the former Bandon AFC star said.
‘I’ll be trying to impress in any minutes I get on the pitch. Club form obviously comes into it. Sheffield United are going well and I’ve been playing. Hopefully, I can play minutes and get as many caps.
‘Belgium will go into this game as red-hot favourites. We’ll have to go about our business and be well prepared, hopefully put in a positive performance and see what the result is.
‘There’ll be a fantastic crowd there and a great buzz to see the Aviva full. The crowds in the last couple of camps were fantastic so hopefully we can put in a good performance first and foremost and see what way the results go.’