For Conor Hourihane, his goal at the weekend for Aston Villa brought him into one of English football’s most exclusive clubs.
The 28-year-old’s curler from outside of the area in Villa’s 5-1 win over Norwich was his first goal in the Premier League, meaning that he has now scored in all four division’s in English football – in addition to finding the net for his country against Georgia, Ireland’s opponents on Saturday.
Hourihane started his career at Sunderland when they were in the top flight, but never played a game for the senior team and after a disappointing move to Ipswich he eventually dropped down to League Two with Plymouth Argyle.
From there he moved to Barnsley in League One, getting promoted to the Championship before switching to Aston Villa where he has seen himself finally get a proper crack at Premier League football.
The midfielder was out of the starting XI initially but strong performances in the League Cup have helped him edge his way back into the team, with the victory over Norwich further proof that he belongs at this level.
Like his battle to reach the top division, Hourihane has had to battle to reclaim his place in the Villa side this season, but putting his head down and getting to work is never something the Cork native has shied away from.
He has constantly had to fight and make sacrifices throughout his career, but what does he feel his rise up the divisions shows about the kind of person he is?
“It says that I’m hugely determined and focused,” said Hourihane.
“When I dropped down to League Two I always had that self-belief and self-confidence that I would come back, I never gave up.
“(I was) in on my days off working so hard. I dedicated myself and sacrificed everything to make it happen and yes, it was great at the weekend and it shows that the hard work does pay off with those kind of moments but it’s one that I won’t be resting on.”
Hourihane can’t afford to rest on his laurels as he says. It’s never been his method of choice. He outlined that although the goal and what it meant was a tremendous achievement for him, he is constantly looking to improve his game.
“I’m never satisfied with my game I’m always my worst critic. I’m working on my game this week again to try and improve but it will be something later on in my career or when I’m finished that I’ll look back on with great pride but it’s not time to look back on it now, it’s time to kick on again.”
The 28-year-old has seen himself become a staple of the Irish team under Mick McCarthy with his displays in the heart of the midfield aiding the Boys in Green in their unbeaten run under the former Ipswich boss.
Hourihane will be hoping to emulate his display against Georgia at the Aviva Stadium in March. He scored the winner thanks to a wonderful free-kick that gave Ireland a vital three points.
He outlined that he is keen to try and find the scoresheet more with the Boys in Green while also continuing to work hard in an attempt to nail down a place in the Aston Villa starting XI.
“(I want) more goals at international level and Premier League level.
“I want to stay in the team for Villa and remain in the Premier League hopefully for a couple of years, especially this year and with my club I’ve worked so hard to get to the level I am at now so it’s about sustaining it and improving every day and staying at this level and making an impact at this level.”