Mick McCarthy has said that he has no plans to use Conor Hourihane again at left-back following the Republic of Ireland’s 3-1 friendly victory over Bulgaria.
The Aston Villa midfielder played 69-minutes of the match at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday night and didn’t look overly comfortable in the full-back position.
The Ireland boss later said that he never saw him as a viable candidate to play there long-term and that he only made the decision to give the midfielder some much-needed game time.
In his post-match press conference, McCarthy was asked about the “experiment” to play Hourihane at left-back.
“You all got it wrong, it was never an experiment,” he said.
“He has no chance at left-back. Ever.
McCarthy on Hourihane at left-back:
"He has no chance of playing at left-back ever. Ever."
— Robert Redmond (@RobRedmond10) September 10, 2019
“Why did you put him there? I had to give him 65 minutes of football. I know James (McClean) can play there, who else could have played there…Seamus (Coleman) has played all the games do you want him there?
“I did it to give him minutes on the pitch. The only way it was ever going to be (tried again) was if he knocked my socks off, that he could cope with a flying right-winger – which I don’t think he ever could. I thought he did well with their right wing-back tonight, but nothing really came down his side.”
Before Tuesday’s friendly at the Aviva Stadium, Hourihane had only played left-back once before in his career – for Plymouth Argyle against Rochdale in a League Two game back in April 2013.
His performance against Bulgaria showed that he is not suited to the position – lacking the pace required to make an impact from full-back. McCarthy surprised many with his decision to pick the Corkman out of position, but his decision to give Hourihane some more playing time cannot be seen as a bad thing.
From McCarthy’s perspective, the player needed minutes. The 28-year-old started Villa’s opening game of the season – a 3-1 defeat away to Tottenham Hotspur – but he has since has lost his spot to summer signing Douglas Luiz. Hourihane has only started in the EFL Cup since that game.
Moving Hourihane to left-back also gave McCarthy the chance to take a look at some of Ireland’s midfield options, which proved beneficial. Josh Cullen was named the man of the match on his debut, Jack Byrne came off the bench to play a key part in two goals and Alan Browne scored.