Barnsley captain Conor Hourihane is delighted his hard work is being noticed after being called up to the Republic of Ireland squad.
The 25-year-old is in the squad for today’s World Cup qualifier against Georgia and Sunday’s match in Moldova and Hourihane is hoping his start to the season could see him make his debut.
The midfield maestro has taken to life in the Championship like a duck to water after leading the Reds to a memorable double last season – winning the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy before being promoted through the play-offs.
The influential central midfielder picked up from exactly where he left off last season by winning August’s Championship Player of the Month award.
“It’s fantastic. It’s something I’ve been working towards for a long time,” admitted Hourihane, who played for the national side at both U19 and U21 level.
“As a proud Irishman it’s something I’ve always wanted to do so it’s nice to get the call up.
“It’s been a long road to get to a decent place, a lot of ups and downs and a lot of hard work along the way.
“It’s paying off slowly but surely but there’s still a lot of hard work to do and still a lot of places where I want to go.
“It’s something I’ve worked for for a number of years and getting into a squad is pleasing but if I keep working hard and going in the right direction then hopefully I’ll be able to get a full cap.”
Manager Martin O’Neill broke the news to Hourihane over the phone and the Barnsley talisman will once again link up with Roy Keane, who he played under at both Sunderland and Ipswich.
And Hourihane is pleased fellow Cork man and hero Keane is around the national set up.
He added: “Martin phoned me up and we had a chat for five or six minutes.
“I known him [Keane] for a while, he signed me for two clubs and he drops me a text every now and again.
“He’s just a fellow Cork man and you sort of look after your own when you’re in a foreign country like England.
“I’ve always looked up to him. He’s one of my heros from when I was young.
“The previously two times he signed me I wasn’t at the level he wanted me to be at.
“I wasn’t ready for first-team football then but hopefully I’m ready for international football now.
“It’ll be nice to see him again and hopefully I can learn a lot from him whilst I’m there.”