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Exclusive: Connor Hourihane Aiming to Recreate the Magic of His First Spell at Barnsley

Connor Hourihane aims to recreate the magic of his first spell at Barnsley as he returns to the club as a player-coach. Reflecting on past successes, Hourihane is excited to build new memories while guiding the next generation of players with his experience.

Neil Goulding
Neil Goulding

Last Updated: 2024-07-11

Louis Hobbs

5 minutes read

Barnsley legend Conor Hourihane is hoping his second spell at the club is just as magical as his first.

A Fairytale First Spell at Oakwell

The former Republic of Ireland international enjoyed a memorable promotion to the Championship with the Tykes in May 2016, and the same season the all-conquering Oakwell outfit tasted sweet success by winning the Football League Trophy at Wembley.

It was a fairytale campaign for Hourihane and his teammates in a quality-laden squad which included star striker Sam Winnall and top talents including Josh Brownhill, Adam Hammill, Alife Mawson, Josh Scowen and Ashley Fletcher, but to name a few.

That’s not to mention having England striker Ivan Toney Southampton hitman Adam Armstrong on the bench.

Reflecting on Past Glory

“We were really, really lucky that season with the team we had, it was incredible what we achieved,” reflected Hourihane, who has recently returned to the South Yorkshire club on a multi-year deal as a player-coach, a decade after he first joined in 2014.

“We were really fortunate we had a really good team and achieved something very special during my first spell at the club,” he told SportsBoom.com.

“Hecky (Paul Heckingbottom) was brilliant, a really good manager, it was a great time to play for the club.”

“We went on to achieve really great things. There’s just so many amazing memories from back then, the two wins at Wembley were something very special.”

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Image Credits: Derby World 

From Barnsley to the Premier League

Hourihane played so well that a high-profile move to Aston Villa followed - and after winning promotion the former Republic of Ireland international got the chance to enjoy three seasons in the Premier League.

The 33-year-old has toasted three promotions during a distinguished career – with the Tykes, Villa and latterly Derby County.

A Decade of Memories

“I can’t believe it’s been ten years (since I joined), it’s crazy really!”

“But it’s great to be back, it’s lovely. I had some lovely memories coming back in the door.”

“Hopefully we can create may more great memories over the course of the next few years.”

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It’s nice there’s they’re still here but, like most football clubs, there’s always a big turnaround, especially over that length of time.

Connor Hourihane

Reuniting with Familiar Faces

“There’s a few people still at the club, from the in background, from when I was there.”

“Martin Devaney, who was doing a lot with the Academy when I joined, is still here and he’s now a big part of the first-team fold.”

“There’s also Bobby Hassell, who is still heavily followed with the Academy.”

“But it’s still great to be back, seeing those old faces, seeing new faces and getting the chance to build relationships with those new people.”

Embracing a New Role

Hourihane is set to combine playing with coaching as he looks to life after one day hanging up his boots.

He’s already been working on his coaching badges and licenses – and is ready to embrace a new chapter in his life and career.

He joked: “I’m obviously not as young as I was once before!”

But he added: “It’s going to be completely different to the time I was here last time, so how much I’ll play over the course of the season, who knows?”

Guiding the Next Generation

“But I can still influence in terms of my experience, helping the players and helping a young squad on and off the pitch.”

“I really to help them improve their level of performance and help them improve as players as well.”

“I definitely think I’ll be able to help in many aspects, on and off the pitch, for sure.”

“I’ve been very fortunate to have played in all the leagues and internationally in big games, I’ve gained a lot of experience from it.”

“Hopefully I can lean on the younger lads and help them in their journeys and to help them achieve whatever they want to achieve in their careers.”

Neil Goulding
Neil GouldingSenior Sports Reporter

Neil has been a journalist for longer than he'd care to remember, having written for national newspapers and respected publications for over 25 years. For the last three years he has worked freelance for BBC Sport, working on the production desk as a sub-editor and also as a writer, covering a whole range of sports.