“It was a tough one to take, but it wasn’t to be.”
Ireland midfielder Conor Hourihane has opened up on his painful miss in the Euro play-off defeat by Slovakia in November, admitting that he thinks about it ‘a lot of the time’.
Hourihane passed up a glorious chance to break the deadlock late in normal time in Bratislava as Ireland went on to lose 4-2 in a penalty shootout, missing the chance to play Northern Ireland in the play-off final for a spot at the European Championship finals.
And the 30-year-old admits he knows he should have scored against Slovakia and that his miss has been difficult to extinguish from his memory.
“I’m my own worst critic and I know I should have scored (in Bratislava),” Hourihane told Off the Ball.
“It was a tough one to take, but it wasn’t to be. That was a very good performance. On the night, we played well, but since then things haven’t gone to plan.
“I look back and think about it. I wouldn’t say every day but a lot of the time. I see it come up on social media and when I meet up with the Irish team it’s more fresh. I’m sure happier days will come and hopefully sooner rather than later.”
Hourihane left Aston Villa for Swansea City on loan in January and has enjoyed a productive start to his spell in Wales, scoring three times in his first four games.
And the former Barnsley man believes his promising form for the Swans can only mean good things for his Ireland career ahead of the start of the 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign in March.
“We’ve probably struggled for goals and scoring a few for Swansea can only bring confidence to do that the next time we meet up,” added Hourihane.
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“I see myself as a strong character mentally from that point of view.
“Hopefully come March we have a strong squad and don’t have Covid issues and too many injuries.
“For a country like Ireland to have the numbers we’ve had missing over the last few trips, it doesn’t give you the best chance to perform and get results.
“We’re not blessed with an England squad, where if they had seven or eight or nine pullouts they can pull in world-class players.
“If we are missing three, four, five players, we struggle. It’s been tough for the squad and for Stephen and hopefully, we can start in a better way come March with a fitter squad and more players available.”
Hourihane also described the ‘Videogate’ episode inside the Irish camp as ‘strange’ and believes it was a case of ‘people trying to stick the knife in’.
The FAI launched an internal investigation after Ireland boss Stephen Kenny prepared a motivational video ahead of a friendly with England at Wembley in November with some players said to have been uncomfortable with parts of the video.
‘People are trying to stick the knife in when times are tough’
“As soon as we left camp it started to blow up,” he said.
“There wasn’t one word about anyone being disappointed with it or angry about it or showing any kind of annoyance towards the video so it was confusing. I didn’t understand it. The whole thing from start to finish was strange for me.
“If you were in the camp and in the dressing room that time, if you’re wise enough you will understand it’s been blown out way too much and should be put to bed. It wasn’t a major story in my eyes.
“In camp nobody showed any annoyance, nobody was frustrated or got in little groups like players do at all levels and talked about the video. Me being one of the senior players, I didn’t get any wind of that whatsoever. The whole thing was bizarre and strange.
“People are trying to stick the knife in when times are tough rather than sticking together. People try to blow things up and rock the boat a little bit but come March we have to crack on and forget about all of that.”