BRILLIANT Bandon midfielder Conor Hourihane has made the switch from Barnsley to Steve Bruce's Aston Villa.
The 26-year-old West Cork native has been in terrific form this season for the Championship side - who are actually ahead of Villa in the league table - scoring six goals, including a belter against Leeds last weekend, and assisting 11 more in 26 appearances in all competitions.
The playmaker captained Barnsley to two trophies at Wembley last year, including a playoff victory to bring them up from League One. Hourihane first moved to England with Sunderland, before a transfer to Ipswich. His career only really kicked off when he dropped down to League Two where he was made Plymouth Argyle captain at just 21-years-old.
Hourihane was actually on the books with Sunderland, who he joined from Douglas Hall, during Steve Bruce's tenure, though he didn't feature in the first team. Villa are believed to have paid £3 million for the in-form playmaker who was out of contract this summer. Though down in 13th in the Championship, the Birmingham giants have been busy this January and are still aiming to make the play-offs and a shot at returning to the Premier League.
A gifted GAA player with Bandon as a youngster, Hourihane played for the Cork Primary Schools selection alongside Rebel footballer Brian Hurley and had the ability to go on to the highest level if he hadn't pursued a soccer career.
He signed a three and a half year deal with Villa, departing Oakwell after his man-of-the-match display and brilliant freekick in their Yorkshire derby win over Leeds.
Hourihane was a regular underage for Ireland and is expected to get his first senior cap in the coming months, having been on the fringes of Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane's recent squads.
Keane was involved with Hourihane at Sunderland, in a youth team alongside Jordan Henderson, and Ipswich. The Bandon native has developed over the past 18 months from an out-and-out attacking midfielder to a more steely, balanced performer capable of moving from box to box.
The next step is to become a key figure for Villa, where the demands to deliver are much greater than at Barnsley, and follow the likes of Keane, Colin Healy, Stephen Ireland, David Meyler and Liam Miller as Rebel midfielders who shone at international level for their country.