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LAST WORD COLUMN: Hourihane needs time to find his feet at international level

April 2nd, 2017 5:05 PM

By Southern Star Team

Heads up: Bandon's Conor Hourihane gets to this ball ahead of Olafur Ingi Skulason of Iceland during Tuesday night's 1-0 defeat at the Aviva Stadium. (Photo: Ryan Byrne/INPHO)

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CONOR Hourihane’s assessment of his Republic of Ireland senior international debut against Iceland on Tuesday night can be summed up in one word he used himself: okay.

The Bandon man didn’t set the world on fire – but he was not alone there, with Ireland offering up a very flat performance in the 1-0 defeat to the country that brought us the thunderclap (which is a lot better than the bloody trumpet from last Friday night’s 0-0 draw with Wales).

Speaking to the42.ie after making his senior bow for the boys in green on Tuesday, Hourihane (26) said: ‘I think I did okay. Obviously it’s my first start at international level and I was a bit nervous going out there but I thought I did okay.

‘It’s nice to get the first one under the belt and hopefully I crack on from here.’

He added: ‘Disappointing result, disappointing goal, disappointing all round.’

What we can’t forget is that this was Hourihane’s first senior international cap so those that were expecting him to perform miracles and inject creativity into a very functional team were expecting too much too soon.

It takes time to find your feet at international level. But just as he stepped up from Plymouth (League 2) to Barnsley (League 1) and then to the Championship (Barnsley and now Aston Villa), Hourihane has improved as the challenges become harder.

What he needs is more minutes at international level and hopefully Martin O’Neill has seen enough to give him another chance in the upcoming June friendlies against Mexico and Uruguay before the World Cup qualifier at home to Austria on June 11th.

It was a six out of ten performance against Iceland. He looked busy in midfield and tidy on the ball without every asserting himself on the game, with Ireland’s tendency to bypass the midfield not playing to his strengths. 

But therein lies a bigger problem, this team’s lack of creativity. The results in the World Cup qualifying group have been very positive – we sit second in the table, level on points with Serbia after five games – but we can’t gloss over Ireland’s style of play that has amassed seven goals in five qualifying games.

The other side of that argument is that O’Neill has to work with what he has, and that’s true as well. But it would be great to see an Irish team have the confidence to play the ball on the deck more and build attacks, rather than revert to route one long balls.

We’re not suggesting that Hourihane is the answer. But he has qualities – including that lethal left foot – that see him still rated, on whoscored.com, as the Championship’s best player, with 11 assists and six goals from midfield to his name this season.

This wasn’t the fairytale debut that Hourihane had dreamed of – but he’s still the first West Cork man to play for the Republic of Ireland senior team, we feel that there’s more to come and he needs to be given the chance to get comfortable in his new surroundings.

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IT’S been a testing few weeks for Beara GAA – but developments on Tuesday night have pulled the division back from the brink and filled the top table.

Ever since Cork County Board correspondence in February highlighted that a number of Beara divisional board officers were believed to have exceeded the five-year rule, the division was plunged into uncertainty.

Some officers stepped down, new officers were elected and positions remained unfilled but after numerous meetings, white smoke erupted from far out west on Tuesday night. 

It means that the Beara board now has stability again and, despite losing a few weeks, can plan ahead for 2017 – but it also draws into question the validity of the five-year rule in rural areas such as Beara, which can struggle for numbers both on and off the field.

What’s important here is that the Beara board has survived and now the current officers – very similar in personnel to the old board – need to pull out all the stops to ensure that the division has a future.

Terence O’Shea, Glengarriff, is the new Beara chairman, with Seamus Spencer (Castletownbere) taking the role of vice chairman, while Finbarr Harrington (Garnish) is secretary.

Adrigole’s Danny Crowley is treasurer, Michael O’Neill (Garnish) reassumes his role as PRO with former chairman Ollie O’Sullivan (Urhan) now the division’s development officer.

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BALLYMARTLE GAA teams will be hoping that divine intervention can inspire them to glory this season.

In one of the quirkier stories that I’ve come across in recent times, this Sunday, Ballymartle GAA Club and Sliabh Rua Underage GAA Club will take part in the annual blessing of their hurlers.

It started a few years back, the idea of Fr Tadhg Ó Murchú, a regular at Ballymartle GAA games, who decided that invoking a greater power could help results on the field.

This originated just before Ballymartle won the 2011 All-Ireland intermediate club hurling championship – and we don’t think that’s a coincidence.

This Sunday, April 2nd, players from Ballymartle and Sliabh Rua will bring their hurleys along to 11.30am mass in Riverstick where they’ll be blessed, with the hope that the Almighty above can pull a few strings when it comes to the championship!

In this age of sports science and psychologists, perhaps a good old-fashioned prayer can prove just as effective.

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YOU wouldn’t class it as a movement, but there’s certainly something happening with West Cork rugby at the moment.

It’s on the rise, from Bantry to Bandon. These are exciting times.

We’ve seen numerous local players get international recognition already this year and now we have Bandon qualifying for the final of the Munster Junior Cup for just the third time ever.

They were magnificent in their 21-10 home semi-final win at Old Chapel last week as they put the Munster Junior League Division 1 champions of the past three seasons, Clonmel, to the sword.

On Easter Sunday they will play Young Munster in the final.

Having lost to Cork Con in the previous two junior cup final appearances, 1973 and ’92, Bandon will be hoping it will be third time lucky later this month.

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