Sheffield United: Republic of Ireland international considers his options

Conor Hourihane, the former Sheffield United loanee, will use the prospect of regular first team football to decide his next club.

Friday, 27th May 2022, 3:20 pm

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The Republic of Ireland international, who made 31 appearances for Paul Heckingbottom’s side in all competitions last season, is poised to become a free agent after Aston Villa confirmed they would not be renewing his contract.

Although Hourihane had been tipped to join United on a permanent basis, having previously worked under Heckingbottom at Barnsley, he admitted during an interview before their play-off semi-final defeat by Nottingham Forest that starting so many matches on the bench had been “frustrating” at times.

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Conor Hourihane of Sheffield United replaces John Fleck: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

Keen to cement his place in Stephen Kenny’s squad, the 31-year-old is expected to choose his latest move on the basis of potential game time rather than salary. Fourteen of his outings for United, including at the City Ground, came from the bench with Heckingbottom preferring to use John Fleck and Oliver Norwood as his two holding midfielders.

Despite insisting he had “enjoyed” his time at Bramall Lane when addressing journalists earlier this month, Hourihane was non-committal about the future when asked about his likely destination after leaving Villa.

“I’m not going to tell you,” he said. “I’ll sit down and think about it all when the time is right, when the matches have finished.”

Conor Hourihane celebrates his goal for Sheffield United against Queens Park Rangers last season: David Klein / Sportimage

Heckingbottom, who has identified “six or seven” issues within his squad which need addressing before the new campaign begins, is known to have discussed United’s plans with Hourihane towards the end of last term.