Cork soccer: Bandon's Conor Hourihane helps Aston Villa escape the drop 

Cork soccer: Bandon's Conor Hourihane helps Aston Villa escape the drop 
Aston Villa's Trezeguet (centre) and team-mates celebrate after surviving relegation from the Premier League.

BANDON’S Conor Hourihane more than played his part as his midfield partner and captain Jack Grealish took centre stage as Villa escaped relegation by the skin of their teeth after a 1-1 draw at West Ham.

The Villa captain, whose future at his boyhood club remains uncertain, came up with the goal which should have settled their nerves six minutes from the end.

Aston Villa's Conor Hourihane (right) and West Ham United's Mark Noble.
Aston Villa's Conor Hourihane (right) and West Ham United's Mark Noble.

Hourihane, who has been creating goals all year for Villa, and has been very influential for Dean Smith’s side since the return to play a few weeks ago, was replaced in the 76th minute, but he had more than given his all for the cause at that stage of the game.

However, moments later Grealish deflected in Andriy Yarmolenko’s shot to leave the visitors hanging on by a thread again, knowing another West Ham goal would send them down with rivals Bournemouth beating Everton.

Yet Villa, who were seven points from safety heading into their game against Crystal Palace on July 12, held on to complete their version of the great escape to stay up by a single point.

The four-match unbeaten run Dean Smith’s men managed to end the season with, including wins over Crystal Palace and Arsenal, kept their heads above water while the Cherries and Watford joined Norwich through the trapdoor.

At the top of the table, Bruno Fernandes and Jesse Lingard fired Manchester United back into the Champions League to deny Leicester a fairytale finish.

A second-half Fernandes penalty and Lingard’s late goal - after Kasper Schmeichel’s howler - secured a 2-0 win as United rejoined Europe’s elite after a one-year absence.

United continued their resurgence under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as they clinched third in the Premier League ahead of Chelsea.

Leicester have been forced to settle for the Europa League after the winner-takes-all clash at the King Power Stadium and their frustration was compounded after Jonny Evans was dismissed in injury time.

Victory would have sent Brendan Rodgers’ side into the Champions League at United’s expense but they have just fallen short.

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